Volunteering on a Mindfulness for Health course – session one

Happy Bank holiday weekend to my lovely blog and Facebook page followers. Lovely to see you here.

So this blog post is to let you know how it was for me to volunteer on a Mindfulness for Health program run at one of the Breathworks offices in Manchester.

I was really excited for this opportunity to volunteer on a course run by one of the Senior trainers of Breathworks as this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Assisting in the running of a mindfulness course is one of the requirements of the accreditation process to become a fully qualified Mindfulness teacher with Breathworks.

Now I’m not a massive fan of large busy cities, however whenever I visit Manchester it feels like a bit of a homecoming. The people that I’ve met have always been very friendly and welcoming and there is a very vibrant and diverse atmosphere in the City centre.


Manchester was where I came for my first introduction to Breathworks, via the two three day introduction courses into Mindfulness and compassion for Health Care professionals. For more details check out the following link: http://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/intro-courses-for-h-p.

This was also the first time that I met Vidyamala Burch in person, who as you may know from my previous posts is a big role model for me in terms of being able to live a good life with a chronic pain, long-term health condition.

Life has been very busy here at BreathworksMK – Mindfulness Meditation and Counselling. So even the long train journey was a welcome opportunity for me to slow down and be mindful of the beautiful scenery viewed from the window and even the opportunity to meditate on the train. This is the beauty of mindfulness for me, you can literally meditate anywhere!


Here is what the Buddhist Centre looks like, I always find it an oasis of calm in a busy City Centre.

I knew Andrea from a couple of the training retreats that I have been on. I was offered a very warm welcome and shown the Breathworks Office which is the hub of all the administration and running of courses at the Manchester Buddhist Centre. Whilst the setting of the course that I am helping to support is in a Buddhist Centre – the 8-week Breathworks mindfulness course is a secular course. Meaning that whatever your religious belief you are very welcome and can benefit from the practices and the ideas that are taught in the course.

My first job of the day was to take the register downstairs and the consent forms for the mindful movement aspect of the course and to welcome the participants of the course as they arrived. Making tea and coffee and talking to people are some of my specialities, so this was a lovely first job 🙂

Then it was time to go up into the course room and to do course introductions and a chance for the group to introduce themselves to the other course participants.

I was really struck by these introductions. Mine was that I was there to learn how the course is run as part of my teacher training. But also for personal reasons. Breathworks and the 8-week program has been absolutely life changing for me and I want to continue to use the meditations to support my own health and have the opportunity to help others with long-term pain and other long-term health conditions to learn these skills and hopefully to improve their quality of life.

The power of sharing in the group became apparent as people shared their struggles with various health issues and how for some this was a last resort, as they had absolutely tried everything else that medicine and the medical model has to offer them. I have absolutely been in this position in the past and could relate at a deep heartfelt level.

This course is run over four weeks, so each session is a double session, so weeks 1 and 2 of the course were taught today. I won’t share too many details of the enactments and concepts that are taught, as I highly recommend attending either a face-to-face, or an online course if you can get the opportunity. I don’t want to spoil it for you! 😉

Details of the online course taught by Breathworks are here: http://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/online-courses.

You can do a taster course, plus online versions of the Stress and Health course.

If you would like to find a Breathworks course local to where you live you could try this link: http://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/mindfulness-for-health/course-near-you

I have seen the enactments done before, but there was something special and impactful about seeing these enactments done in a group setting. Here is a video clip of one of the enactments to give you a taster:


Then we did a body scan meditation, which some people did sitting in a chair due to their health conditions and some people did laying on the floor. I was tasked with giving out extra cushions and blankets, which are always nice to have to get comfortable whilst meditating 🙂

Here is a guided body scan meditation that you can do if you’d like to. The idea is to bring your awareness to rest in a particular area of the body, say your head, see what you notice here and then progressively move your awareness down to each successive part of the body. So from the head we could move down to the neck, the shoulders, the arms etc…If you notice any pain in the body, you are encouraged to try and breathe into the area and soften it as best you can so that you can relax the body into gravity and allow it to sink into the support offered by the floor. You also have the choice to move the body and adjust your body position should you need to.

I highly recommend doing this meditation for 10 minutes twice a day for the next 6-7 days and see what you notice in your body and in your mind. Participants on the course are given a booklet with weekly grids to note down anything that comes up. You could quite easily buy a nice notebook to note down your observations, or even use the notes section of your phone.


The other meditation that we experienced together was the Breathing Anchor. Here is an example of a guided Breathing Anchor meditation:

The Breathing Anchor is one of my favourite meditations to do. The breath is always with us in every moment from birth, up until when we die. So it is a readily available sensation on which to focus.

We are encouraged to focus on the breath, the sensations of the breath, maybe at the nose, shoulders, rib cage, belly, and back. Then when thoughts arise, as they often will, you can acknowledge these thoughts and gently guide the awareness back to where it is that you are focusing on. The sensations in the body are in a sense an ‘anchor’ for the awareness, helping us to be more ‘present’ and thereby helping with concentration and mental focus.

You may have heard of the constantly thinking and distracted mind described as the monkey mind. I wonder if you can relate to some of these images?




As with the Body Scan meditation, the advice is to practice the Breathing Anchor for 10 minutes, twice a day, for 6-7 days over the week.

If you think of meditation as a training for the brain – as we would train our physical body in the gym, I find it’s helpful in the establishing of a regular meditation routine. The more we train, the stronger the new connections in the brain become. Hopefully you will over time observe a reduction in the amount of pain experienced and your emotional reaction to it. Or you may notice improvements in your mental health, for example, a reduction in anxiety, stress, or depression.


There is a lot of research to support the benefits of mindfulness for various health conditions. The research finding are too numerous for me to write here, but here is the link to some of the research that has been conducted by Breathworks into the effectiveness of their programs: http://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/research


Finally, I was asked to help tidy away the chairs, mats and cushions and to help tidy the kitchen area.

I had a great experience of assisting in this session and am very much looking forward to the next session.


As ever I would love to hear from you if you have any questions at all, or anything that you would like to share.

You can comment on this blog, or I do have a Facebook page ‘Breathworksmk – Mindfulness meditation and counselling’ where you could comment, message.

Until next time,

Warm wishes,


Mary 🙂 

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