Spiritual Poet poetry mindfulness courses

Spiritual poetry - Barbara Payman. Meditation, mindfulness & compassion. Lotus flower and reflection. 


 Spiritual poetry with Barbara Payman. The meditation toolbox. Flower and stones.

Meditation toolbox

Toolbox for everyone, anytime, anywhere

I designed this ‘Meditation Toolbox’ for a hospice website, as a ‘go-to’ toolbox for difficult times. The meditations can be drawn on at times when our emotions, thoughts or physical sensations may feel particularly distressing, painful, or overwhelming, as well as ‘at the start of the day’, or any other time. The collection of meditations are suited to regular meditators and to those with no previous meditation experience.  None of the meditations are original : many are based on Buddhist practices, and some are devised by  contemporary practitioners ( RAIN practice - Tara Brach; Self compassion break - Kristin Neff). All are recorded by myself.

See the meditations


In this 'Meditation Toolbox', the meditations are adapted to be short and succinct so that they can be memorised or printed out, and can be completed in less than ten minutes. Hence they can be used as an ‘on the go’ tool, for times we feel stressed or under pressure, and most can be shortened to as little as a minute or two when needed. They can also be used for more formalised practice, where we assign time in the day to sit/lie and meditate.


The science

Put simply, the brains of human beings, like animals, have a ‘radar’ system designed to detect potential threat or danger. This radar system is unable to distinguish between an actual threat (a tiger outside) or a visualised threat (our mind worrying a tiger may come). When a threat is perceived, the radar fires up our ‘threat response’, and the body is prepared for ‘fight, flight or freeze’ to evade the perceived danger. Cortisol and adrenaline are released and we may experience raised heart-beat, rapid shallow breathing, nausea, shakiness, sweating, alongside anxiety, fear and compromised thinking ability. This state can be very uncomfortable.

The ‘threat response’ involves the body’s ‘sympathetic nervous system’. In contrast, the body’s ‘parasympathetic nervous system’ has a calming, soothing effect and helps us to feel relaxed and safe, and to think clearly. Mindfulness and self-compassion meditation practices are proven to be very effective in evoking and building up this ‘soothing system’. 

In mindfulness meditation practices, our intention is to be as aware as possible of the present moment. By deliberately bringing our attention to the ‘here and now’, we loosen the mind’s strong habits to dwell negatively on the past or future, the cause of much of our mental and emotional suffering. Research strongly demonstrates that being more aware or mindful, and developing more self-compassion, is highly beneficial for our mental and physical well-being.


Common difficulties in meditation


It is common for our minds to become distracted and get caught up in thinking while doing the meditations - we are not getting anything ‘wrong’ when this happens - it is a normal part of meditation. Whenever we find our mind has wandered (e.g. to thinking about what’s for tea!), we simply guide our attention gently back to focus again on the meditation. If our mind is particularly busy and keeps wandering off this is fine too. With a kind attitude just simply guide it back whenever you notice. 


The meditations explicitly or implicitly introduce us to self-kindness and self-compassion. The mind sometimes finds this challenging as we are usually more familiar with directing kindness to others than to ourselves. We may then encounter our mind resisting the meditation, and find ourselves stirred in some way, perhaps with negative thoughts, or uncomfortable emotions. Again, nothing is ‘wrong’ if this happens; we need to decide whether to gently carry on with the meditation and simply recognise our resistance with kindness and understanding or whether to choose to do a different meditation, perhaps one we are already familiar with, such as being aware of breathing, or whether to stop our meditation and do something different to be kind to ourselves (please also see ‘Mindfulness in everyday life’).


How to use the toolbox

  • There are 8 meditations in the toolbox, using a variety of approaches.  Each stands alone, and becoming familiar with just one meditation can be very helpful. You may like to start by glancing through the summaries or scripts for all eight meditations, and then select what most appeals to you. Use whatever tool feels best for you at any particular time.
  • The first three meditations can usually be quickly learnt and combine well to give you a choice of ‘on the go’ resources to use in your day at any time you feel stressed or simply need to pause and ground yourself.  The other meditations provide further alternatives.
  • If at any time you find engaging with a meditation seems to heighten distress, please discern whether you need to stop, and do something different to take care of yourself (e.g. make a drink). If feeling very anxious, 7:11 breathing can be very useful (described in ‘Mindfulness in everyday life’).
  • If you choose to schedule daily time to sit/lie and meditate more formally, you may like to use the audio recordings.


The meditations

Breathing meditation

Uses the focus of breathing to bring us back to awareness of the ‘here and now’. Helps us feel calmer, more balanced and focussed. Particularly useful as a sitting practice but a short version (even three breaths!) can be used anywhere, anytime.

How to


Three-minute breathing space

Brings our focus back to our internal experience in the ‘here and now’. Can help us feel calmer, more balanced and focussed. Particularly useful as a ‘pause’ when ‘on the go’ or overly busy or stressed. Recommended to use several times a day.

How to


Self-compassion break

Helps restore a feeling of well-being in difficult moments. A compassionate practice, involving recognising our difficulty, acknowledging our connection to others, and bringing kindness to ourselves.

How to


Compassionate body awareness meditation

Brings our focus to the body, helps to let go of tension, relax, and bring kindness and appreciation. Very useful to help relax at bed-time.

How to


‘RAIN’ meditation

A compassionate practice to work more deeply with difficult emotions. ‘RAIN’ is an acronym for recognise, allow, investigate and nurture. Emphasis is placed on accepting the nature of our experience, whatever it is, and developing kindness towards ourselves.

How to


‘Taking and Sending’ meditation

A compassionate practice, involving a visualisation of suffering being dissipated and transformed. Can help instil a sense of alleviating suffering (of our own or of others).

How to


‘Compassionate light’ meditation

A compassionate practice, involving a visualisation of our internal experience transforming into compassionate light, which then travels to ourselves, others, the world to alleviate struggle and suffering.

How to


Mindfulness in everyday life

Bringing full awareness to our experience of everyday activities where we might usually be ‘lost in thought’. We can use everyday mindfulness to help ground/balance ourselves in stressful moments and to help cultivate calmness.

How to


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