3 Short Steps to Ease: Softening From the Inside

I don't know about you, but I love this time of year.

I must have been a bear in a previous life. Hibernation time! I have fewer demands on myself and others seem to have little demands of me too. Everything slows down. It's a perfect time to practice being a human being rather than a human doing.

If you know me well, you'll know that I love everything soft. Soft sheets, soft clothes, soft light. Even my hot water bottle is dressed in winter softness. I know there are a lot of you out there that love soft too.


And in this vein I want to talk about softening from the inside. We know now that every thought or emotion has a physiological response in the body. Check it out for yourself. If you are feeling joy, there may be a lightness in the breath, an expansion in the chest, an upturn at the corners of the mouth, a smoothness at the brow. In anger, you may notice a tightness around the diaphragm, a clenching of the fist or jaw, a rapid deep breath or no breath at all. A sad thought may bring up wetness in the eyes, a slumping of the shoulders, slowness in the breath or a deep sigh.

This is a wonderful thing. An immediate feedback loop that you can begin to play with. And it all starts with AWARENESS. Practicing mindfulness helps us become more in tune with ourselves and offers us choice. So instead of being swept away with our thoughts, feelings and body sensations we can work towards acceptance and skilful paths to a calmer, more resilient and, dare I say, happier state.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. If you have an honest intention to create more ease in your life, you can take up your challenge on promiseorpay. This week I challenge you to put the following into operation a few times a day, and night, and see what happens.


Pause: Take a moment to pause and check in on yourself.
Choose what is calling for your attention: your thoughts, feelings or body sensations.
This interrupts the autopilot stress cycle.
If your thoughts are taking over, notice them and, if you can, label them: worry, stress, guilt, confusion...
It’s amazing how repetitive our thoughts can be when we pay attention. Over and over. Labelling helps us interrupt the repetitiveness.
If it's a strong feeling or emotion, notice them and, if you can, label them: grief, anger, sadness. See is any of these feelings pair with thoughts. Write them down. Categorise them into pleasant and unpleasant.

Note that our thoughts, feelings and body sensations are difficult to distinguish at first. The important thing is to immediately drop the story. Ahhhhh, we are so attached to our stories! It’s the story that often trips us up and keeps us in the past or future.

And now the important bit:

Relax. Scan your body and notice any areas of sensation.
Wherever you may feel tension or tightness, sense the possibility of softening, of letting go a little. Relax your body. When we’re stressed, our muscles tighten, which sends signals back to the brain to fight, flee or freeze, making thoughts more distracted and chaotic. Scanning the body and finding the tension and deliberately relaxing the tightness does the opposite. You can do this step many times over.
When you locate the tension, imagine it is possible to breathe into this part- to fill it with air. Then, relax on a slow out breath. Matching inner and outer breaths to 4 counts works well.

Open as the body relaxes. Open to the bigger space around you, around the holding or the tension. When we relax, we have a greater opportunity to clear our minds and sense the comfort or warmth around us. And if we are doing this process throughout the day, it allows us to focus on the job at hand and become more creative.

Through trial and error, I have found this an incredibly effective way to go to sleep at night. I notice when I go to bed, there is sometimes a thought like “I hope I can get to sleep" or "wow, big day tomorrow!". When I check into the body at that point there is tension in the wanting to sleep. Relaxing that part or parts of the body over and over takes me out of the sympathetic part of the nervous system (fight, flight) and drops me into the Para sympathetic part (rest and revive). Doing this over and over relaxes my body and tricks my mind into believing everything is okay, and usually it is anyway. Often I’m too caught up in the early hours catastrophising to notice!

So PAUSE, RELAX and OPEN (over and over and over……..)

I have recorded and uploaded a Relax and Open meditation to play with - check it out here alongside the others I have uploaded and let me know how you go.

But really, these three steps can be practiced in 20 seconds wherever you are. Bed is a perfect time. The benefit comes in the practice.

Wishing you all ease and joy,


P.S. Have you booked your spot in the next Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program? I’d love to see you there! Click here for more details.

Mindfulness Monthly | May

I am often asked “What is the right way to practice mindfulness?”.

Truth be told, I have asked myself the same question many times. I don’t want to waste my time going down the wrong road. Which is more efficient, which is guaranteed to work faster?
Over the last 10 years, there has been an explosion in mindfulness courses, apps and techniques. The choice is amazing and while I celebrate this way of studying  and training the mind, it can be overwhelming. Sometimes, too much choice can immobilise us and cause us to do nothing at all.

In my teen years, life was so simple. If you had the right pair of jeans (Staggers), you were cool. If you didn’t have them, not cool. There were only 2 shops that catered for teenagers in Sydney. The IN shop and John and Merivale.  If you bought their 8-panel floral ground-length skirt, you were cool. If you didn’t, you weren’t. Now, I can't even buy a pair of jeans. I don't know the correct style, colour, degree of wash, denim weight, length, rips or no rips, waisted, hipped, EEEEKKKKKKKK!
The endless choice makes me  doubt myself over and over. There is NO pleasure in shopping. I always feel just slightly off. I never seem to get things quite right. And don’t start me on home design, entertaining, travelling, eating or exercise. The next best thing is always on the horizon and here I am, moping about at the bottom of a hill, completely clueless. I blame social media, commercials, the supermarket isle. Basically, I blame TOO MUCH CHOICE and how that undermines my confidence.
And then we come to mindfulness.  You may have been introduced to mindfulness through the “pure” teachings of Goenka Vispassna, the more secular teachings of an MBSR course, the inclusivity of the Thich Nat Hahn practices, the gentleness and love practices of Insight or Loving Kindness practices. Perhaps transcendental meditation. You may have chosen to use an app (Insight Timer, Calm, Smiling Minds...), or gone to a retreat, listened to a podcast or read a book... But how did you choose that? Why? 
With selectivity, a problem arises with the need to defend your choice if challenged. If you have moved through the exciting evangelical state  (having found the answer to all human suffering) to the often less than exciting states of meditation, you may begin to have doubts that you're on the right path.
The Buddha claimed there are at least 84,000 ways to awaken/show up to your life. So, obviously, there are a few more choices on the horizon. 

The stress is enough to make you want to meditate! Oh yeah, that's where we started.
My current mentor shared with me recently that it's all just opinions and views and in choosing your way, you must follow the curve of your heart.
Jack Kornfield wrote in his beautiful book Path with Heart: If your path has heart, follow it. If it doesn’t, don’t.
Happy meditating, and follow your heart,

Rita xx

P.S Our next MBSR program is up, as is a peaceful Dawn to Dusk day of meditation and learning. I would love to see you there!

Mindfulness Monthly | March

 I can barely imagine a more beautiful setting than last Saturday at the Full Day of Mindfulness for past and current MBSR Sydney Mindfulness Training graduates. Those of you who couldn't come missed a wonderful day of self-care, introspection, quiet, beauty and community. The next one will be held in August. I'll let you know closer to the date!

Here I am in a very large (a slightly too large) campervan at a Big 4 Caravan Park with everything I need.  We are exploring the south coast town of Eden. What fun! It took a while to figure out the gas, the waste system and the beds, but we're all good now. Happy campers!

Today we went to Guerrilla Bay. If you haven’t, you should. It was so beautiful. Yesterday we swam at Hyams - the whitest sand in Australia. AND I found (and stocked up on) what I believe to be the best coffee roasters south of Sydney. Bliss.


When people first come to a mindfulness class, the first meditation is usually a Body Scan. Mindfulness of the body is often described as the first foundation of mindfulness. Similar to the Yoganidra at the end of yoga.  

The Body Scan is not designed to relax the body, it's more about waking up to different parts of the body. 
The body, like the breath, experiences things in the here and now. Meaningful moments that are happy, gratifying or pleasurable are usually felt in the body. Like being present for a birth, a death, a beautiful sunrise for example.
On the other hand, when we are suffering or fearful or in conflict, we often do the opposite. We tend to disconnect from our bodies – a clever response because we hardwired for survival AND we don’t like pain!
We can use our sense of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell to bring us into the body. Without the intention to be here, we are conditioned to leave all the time. So how do we teach ourselves to sit with our emotions? 

We have a tendency to develop our own personal escape habits, numbing ourselves with too much or too little food, obsessively drinking, shopping, texting, Facebook, Instagram. You know what you do. We convince ourselves that if we don’t feel, then somehow we have conquered our fears. But numbing isn’t the same as being, being balanced, at ease, fearless in the face of all that arises in our body heart and minds.
We tend to cut off from our body’s intelligence and our heart's wisdom. As we deepen our awareness through the body scan and breath practices, we can train ourselves to come back again and again and deepen our conscious awareness. We can begin to live all of our life, the good, the bad and the beautiful

Approach slowly with interest and care. We wouldn’t have left if we weren’t afraid of what’s there, so be very forgiving and gentle and kind. Forgiving about leaving, gentle about arriving. Approach your body tenderly as a container of freedom and joy.

I have uploaded a Body Scan here for you to have a play with. This is a systematic arrival in different parts of the body. Try to do it every day if possible, or every other day, and see if you can open up to whatever experiences are here, feeling the sensations from the inside out. If you don’t know what I mean, hold your arm up in the air for 5 minutes. Sensation!
Happy practicing,

Mindfulness Monthly | February

I have just returned from a very quick week in Washington and am completely blissed out. Picture this:

A large conference room with 1000 of my new besties sitting openheartedly in front of arguably the two best mindfulness teachers around, Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.

I was at the opening weekend of a two-year training in mindfulness in Washington recently and I couldn’t be happier. I can hear your hearts beating faster as you read this.  Mine did as I laughed, cried, and opened myself up to a room of Canadians, Americans, Icelanders, French Chinese and others from over 47 countries. I felt the possibilities of a world that could exist in love and peace as this microcosm of humanity talked about their aspirations as teachers, being connected to themselves in authenticity, awareness and compassion.

It was truly a beautiful thing. 

I have come back refreshed and incredibly excited. Please forgive me for sounding evangelical. I know it’s in there and I will try to tamper myself down a bit but it’s difficult when I have been so inspired.
Some other experiences from this trip...
Food is really bad there. I mean depressingly so. Americans need to kneel down and thank whomever up there for WHOLEFOODS. That place saved my life. On the first day of the conference perhaps ten people walked across the road to put some healthy stuff in their brown cardboard containers. By day 4 the place was packed with gleeful mindfulness participants heaping yummy fresh salad, veges, fruit and gluten free everything’s into their baskets. Pure joy.
The staff and the hotel kept telling us that we were the nicest group they have ever catered for. WE thought they were the best as well.

Try to see the goodness in others; they often act the better because of it. -  Nelson Mandela
I was reminded (AGAIN) that whatever is projected outwardly, wether we appear confident and together, or frayed at the edges, we are all at times vulnerable and scared. Sometimes we want to be seen, sometimes we want to hide and for the most part, all we want is to be able to love and be loved.
In our culture, this doesn’t come naturally. It is something that has to be relearned.

Tara quoted someone or other (oopsie, cant remember who) that we live in a PTSD world- bombarded daily on every screen with devastating news and apocalyptic visions of the future. Most of the time we think we should be doing something other than what we are engaged in. Frantically running around just trying to keep up in an ever-changing fast paced world.

We need to stop, reconnect to the better parts of ourselves and have kindness and compassion for our not so good parts. It really is possible to train ourselves in awareness, to lessen self judgements, to quieten our mind and retrain our habits.

It's possible to pause, be less reactive and more loving to others and ourselves.

This is something I'm bringing with me into the next month.

I hope this finds you well and at peace,



Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose,
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognise and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue 

- Martha Postlewaite

The Relaxed Mind

One of the first insights beginner meditators see is this previously unconscious stream of inner dialogue. The ceaseless movement of the untrained mind. It constantly changes, like the weather at Machu Picchu. Rain, snow, sun, wind. Likes, dislikes, emotions, plans, worries, memories, stories.

Mindfulness meditation is learning to steady our attention on the present moment, finding a wise and loving awareness in our relationship to this natural change of body and heart and mind in every season.


For the mind to become steady, it is necessary to develop a degree of stability through concentration. Concentration is the art of calming and steadying our attention, like a candle flame in a windless place. As we train ourselves to become mindful of breath and body, we can see more clearly and become more present.

To steady and focus the mind takes time, practice, self-care and patience. Jack Kornfield shares that training the mind in meditation is like training a puppy. We put the puppy down and say, “Sit. Stay.” What does it do? It gets up and runs around. “Stay.” It turns around again. Twenty times, “Stay.” After a while, slowly, the puppy settles down. 

This is the same with our minds in meditation practice. At the beginning we may be present only 2% of the time. 98% spent thinking, planning, daydreaming, whatever. After a few weeks you may be concentrating for 5% Being fives times more present to touch the earth, to feel the breeze, to see the eyes of others, to be awake to our senses is no small improvement. Try it, you'll see.

The development of steady concentration comes through nurturing an inner peacefulness. As our meditative skill grows, we learn that the mind becomes concentrated not through strain and struggle, but from letting go of anxiety about the past and future, and relaxing into the present.

Let me write that again.

Relaxing into the present moment.

Over and over and over again. We feel our mind tighten.....relax.
We feel tension on our bodies, our hands and chest....relax.

This is a natural process and a wonderful informal practice that is simple and available to us all. For more on this way of being you may want to read The Relaxed Mind by Dza Kilung Rinpoche.

But remember, it’s all in the practice, and that’s why it’s called practice. 


Mindfulness Monthly | OCTOBER

Yep, this is where I am. On a two month adventure to South America. It feels very... big. I've been practising my Spanish on Duolingo like crazy but so far I'm understanding next to nada!

The first real stop after acclimatising to the altitude is Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes, once the capital of the Inca Empire.

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Before ticking Machu Picchu off my proverbial bucket list of sacred sites, the following thoughts swirled in my mind:

Very excited and a little nervous about being disappointed. I don’t do well with sacred sites. Actually, I don’t do so well with tarot readings, psychics, other dimensions... 

Somehow, I just can’t feel the energy (oops, don’t tell anyone that). I WANT to, I really want to, but it just doesn’t happen. Uluru for me was a lot of busses, tourists and cameras. Then the walk around was simply too uncomfortable to feel anything but the heat...

I have also yet to feel the overwhelming devotional love for a guru. I have huge affection and love for some of my teachers but would I sacrifice my family for that devotion? Sometimes this feels like failure, a spiritual failing...

What I do know is that when I sit in meditation, sit quietly without an agenda and stay as close as I can to my breathing, something wonderful happens in the stillness. Thoughts of failure are irrelevant and I tap into a profound peace. This is my little sacred site.

It was, of course, not at all what played out during the actual experience. Surprise surprise. 
Here's how it went down:

Easy arrival, a lot of people, not much breathing on my part. Next thing I knew I had turned a corner and there it was, a magical scene in real time making all the photos I had ever seen seem irrelevant. 
There were no thoughts, simply deep breathing and stillness. There was no thinking, just seeing. I knew I was seeing something extraordinary, but it wasn’t till the next day (without the guide), that I could sit and take in the mountains and the clouds, the rain and the sunshine. It was then that my favourite mountain meditation come alive.

People may come and share in the majesty of the mountain.
Others may come and feel that it is not a good day to see the mountain, that it’s too cloudy or too misty, hot or wet.
All of this matters little to the mountain, who is not affected by whether people like or not. Or the changing weather.
Through it all the mountain just sits there, being itself.

If we can bring this into our meditation practice we too can sit like the mountain, unaffected by the waves of expectations and disappointments. 

I've also uploaded a 10-minute meditation on my website, recorded in Chile. Find a quiet place to practice your breathing and become aware of your sitting. You can find it here, along with a 5-minute meditation. 

Happy Spring to you all.

Mindfulness Monthly | AUGUST

I am finally coming to the end of the flu. Not the cough cough, sniffle sniffle kind, but the blocked head, razor throat, rivers of muck (too much information?) and the I will NEVER EVER be okay kind. 


This sickness has caused me to miss one of my closest friend's big birthdays. I sadly missed saying goodbye to my wonderful MBSR group on their last night. I had to pass up a few teaching gigs and I still miss my good friends and beautiful family who I have strategically distanced myself from to prevent their contamination.
I know people are in much worse places than me and it's just a cold, but boy oh boy, does laying low give one's thoughts and emotions time to play out their course. They went in waves:

My brain will never work again so teaching is off the cards.
My friends will forget me and I'll be No Fun Rita.
My family can do without me and eventually I'll fade from their lives forever. 
No energy means no walking, so energetic holidays are over…….
It's actually all over really….
Blah blah blah

It's been fun.
So. What to make of it all?
I've been thinking about perception, about how I look at life when its not going the way I want it to. In this blog post, I'm going to be looking at attachments and expectations, and try to put a few things in perspective.
Welcome to the August Mindfulness Monthly. May you all be healthy and live life with ease and energy.

"This is a wonderful day. I've never seen this one before." 
- Mary Angelou

On Attachment

There is an old story about a Zen master and his student:

The master and young monk were about to cross a river on foot, but before they did so they came across a young woman on the riverbank who wanted to cross but was too small and fragile to make the journey. So the kind old master carried her on his back across the river. This upset the young monk a great deal as he felt his master had violated the vinaya, the ‘rules’ of the masters. The monk kept quiet for a few days but felt increasingly upset and angry with his master as each day passed. Eventually he couldn’t help it and told his master he was very angry. The old master laughed and laughed telling the young monk, ‘I left the woman the minute we finished crossing the river, but you have been carrying her until now. 

How do I live a free life when I care so much about the things I am attached to?
Thanks to a timely gift by a good friend, I have been reading Everyday Enlightenment by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa. His Holiness points out that it is good to have tenderness and care about certain things in our lives. However, that is not the same as having attachments. 
He says we should recognise when those connections support us, allow us to grow, provide inspiration and momentum. And then to recognise when they keep us stuck, fearful, jealous or even bored. It could be people that drain us, wealth that fixates and drives us, and habits that waste our time.

When we label a person, a material thing or a fixed idea of who we are or where we're going as "me" and "mine", we set ourselves up for the possibility of hurt, disappointment, jealousy and anger. The person may change, you may lose your wealth, you may be boxed in through old memories of yourself, and finally, your expectations and untamed desires may have you looking for happiness in all the wrong places.
We are human beings, it's in our nature to form connections, especially when we are inspired by a person or place. However, they need to be examined. Whether our attachments are positive for us and have a relaxed joyful nature or whether they stir up the more disturbing, ‘grasping’ emotions in us, I think we all know the difference.

Expectations kill the beauty of life. They keep us fearful of disappointment and keep us running and busy. At the end of the day it will all be gone: your possessions, reputation, relationships and body. Businesses and buildings will collapse and good friends and families will leave or be left. At the end we must be comfortable being alone with ourselves. Practicing non-attachment can make you one of the luckiest people in the world.

How To Practice Non-Attachment

Notice when you are feeling desire for something - a person, a new watch, new job, new car, a slice of lemon meringue pie. The next 'thing' that is going to make you happy.

Then take a moment, walk away. Relax. Play with how long the desire lasts. Can you distract yourself? Does some other desire take over?

And of course, you may become so fixated that you must get it. We're only practicing, remember?
Then notice how long the satisfaction lasts. Five minutes, a day...

And then what do you desire next?

Becoming conscious of desire and aversion (what we like and what we don't like) changes our perspective and interrupts the cycle of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Perhaps you'll be able to step lighter in the world. It's certainly worth a try.

Happy exploring,

Rita x