What is Mindfulness?


Photo credit: Sam Schooler 


Mindfulness is a type of meditation which dates back many centuries but has become more popular recently. In a nutshell, mindfulness meditation involves taking some time to pay attention to our breathing and our thoughts.

In our webinar on 19th April led by Dr Mark Coulson, we talked about Mindfulness and Mindfulness practice. As part of the IENE6 project, we have produced a number of videos on mindfulness which you can use for practicing mindfulness meditation. These can be accessed here

Many people practice mindfulness as part of a guided meditation, either in a group with others, or by themselves. A common misconception is that meditation necessitates clearing the mind, but really it means being aware of our thoughts, acknowledging that thoughts are transient, and letting them pass. A useful analogy is to imagine that your thoughts are like clouds that pass by in the sky. It is normal to find that your mind wanders. For many people, mindfulness meditation can take a bit of getting used to, but it becomes easier with practice.

However, mindfulness does not need a formal guided meditation, and it does not need to be done  in a specific time or place. Rather, it can be a way of life. Often we go about our day in a state of ‘busyness’. Our lives are packed with commitments and tasks we need to do, and it’s easy to find ourselves running on a kind of autopilot, rushing from one thing to the next. Mindfulness is a way of being more present and having greater awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. This could be something as simple as paying attention to your breathing, noticing feelings or emotions, or even noticing things about your environment. You can be mindful by checking in with yourself and taking a few moments to reflect on your day, or even putting away your phone while you are with someone, and really listening to what they are saying. In this way you can be mindful anytime, anywhere: on your daily commute to work or even while doing the washing up!

The principles of mindfulness meditation as we know it today have been derived from religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, however you do not have to subscribe to a particular religious belief in order to be mindful. Mindfulness is also a compassionate state of being, and involves accepting things without trying to change them or judging ourselves harshly.

In the webinar we received many good suggestions of resources and smartphone apps that can be used for practicing mindfulness, including Headspace, Mind the bump(for use in pregnancy), Breathworks,  and Finding peace in a frantic world. Many of them are free, or have free sections. There are also many websites, YouTube videos and podcasts where you can find information about mindfulness. Try searching for the words ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’.

This website has a lot of free information and resources about Mindfulness, and some free clips of mindfulness meditations. A fun one to try is the chocolate meditation! There are many books which have been written on mindfulness and meditation by authors such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman. You may also be able to find several books on Mindfulness and meditation at your local library.

Details of our next webinar:

Please feel free to join us for our next webinar which will be taking place this Thursday the 17th of May at 12pm (UK time). It will be on Compassion and culturally appropriate psychological support and is being led by Professor Rena Papadopoulos. It is free to attend the webinar, and you can join by clicking on this link: http://breeze.mdx.ac.uk/iene6webinar/

Further details are here: http://www.ienerefugeehub.eu/uploads/network/other/59-webinar-compassion.pdf

What is your experience of mindfulness? Have you ever tried it? What did you think? Feel free to tell us in the comments section below.

For many people, mindfulness is a way of finding peace. Where do you find your peace? 




A quest for cultural competence

A poem written by Veron Oliver

(Year 3 BSc Mental Health Nursing 2017 Student at Middlesex University London) 


Sometimes I wonder…
Is cultural competence like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
The pinnacle achievable by just a few?

Is cultural competence a journey?
A destination?
A way to be?

How will I know when it’s been achieved?
How deep will I have to look?
How much of me do I need to change?

Question, questions and more questions…

But as I traverse this experience from student to practitioner
I have to remember
I can never stop looking


I will strive to get there…


by Veron Oliver
March 2018

I am not a poet !

I am not a poet but this morning I got this urge to write a poem. The trigger for this urge was the bad weather the whole of Europe is having at the moment.

My poem does not rhyme and it may not comply to any poetic styles you may know. It is the expression of my thoughts and feeling that have been going around my mind this morning. It took me 10 minutes to write and I have not attempted to polish in any way after I wrote it. My urge to write it was to share my sentiments with you.

Hope you appreciate the simplicity of the writing and the sincerity of thoughts and wishes.

Snowstorm musings

By Irena Papadopoulos 

I feel so cold today

We feel so cold today

It’s snowing, it’s raining

The wind is chilling

I wish my family

‘Keep warm and safe’

We wish our families

‘Keep warm and safe’

We say

‘Don’t venture out unless you have to’

‘Don’t drive unless you must’

More advice

From radio and TV

From warm and comfy studios

‘Have hot drinks, eat well’

But spare a thought for the refugees

In tents or on the go

Freezing, hungry, trying to survive

Their warm homes miles behind

Searching for safety

Trying to survive

I cannot get the children

Out of my mind

How are they coping

What are they hoping

Is hypothermia creeping in

Is hunger weakening

So much suffering

So much sadness

When will the powerful

Stop playing the power games

When will the greedy

Stop wanting more

When will the fanatics

Start being reasonable

When will all of them and us

Appreciate humanity

When will all of them and us

Stop the death and destruction

When will we all

Learn we are all one

I count my blessings

My warm home

The plentiful food

The choices I have

To stay in or go out

I tell myself ‘stop complaining about the cold’

I have safety

I have a good life

When will they have the same too?



1st March 2018

Dedicated to all the refugees and displaced people who are trying to survive not only this winter but in the long term

I will build a house with a pool

Last Sunday was my oldest grandson’s birthday. He is now eight years old!

To celebrate the occasion, his mum and dad organised a pool party for his friends. It was a lovely occasion. To see all the children jumping into the pool, diving under the water, climbing over the inflatable structure in the pool, swimming, splashing, throwing balls, shouting, and having fun, was a heartwarming delight. I was having such a good time watching the level of activity in the pool and listening to the happy excited sounds and their echos!

I wondered how a boy of similar age would be celebrating his birthday in a refugee camp. I was hoping that his parents along with his siblings and possibly some friends would be sitting in their tent singing the songs children sang in their homeland. I imagined that perhaps a volunteer in the camp knew it was the little boy’s birthday and as by magic delivered a birthday present and maybe a small cake for them to share. It is a happy occasion and so the father is commemorating it by taking a few photos on his mobile phone. But it is also a sad occasion for the parents who remember how they used to celebrate birthdays before being forced to leave their homes.

But children are more resilient than we give them credit for. Suddenly the little boy stands up and speaks: ‘ I am so happy it is my birthday today and so excited that we are all together and having fun. When I grow up I want to build a big house so we can all live together. I know I can do this because I have been watching the builders who are building a wall in the camp. I also want to build a big pool in the garden so that we can all have fun together in the water. And when is my birthday I will invite all my friends and family to my house and to my pool‘.  Simple words describing a big dream. Mother sheds a tear, father smiles proudly. They are both so proud of the little boy who is mature beyond his years. They know he will grow into a good human being and they hope he will achieve all his dreams.

Being a parent, being a refugee….

Read my latest blog, send me your comments!

IENE 6 Project: Migrant and Refugee Blog

Imagine being a parent of a son of 2years, a daughter of 6years and a daughter of 13years in age. Now imagine your home being rained down with bombs and bullets, seeing fighting all around you, very little food to feed the family, scared to venture out, scared to sleep at night, knowing that many members of your family and many friends are dead as a result of a vicious war that seems to have been going on for ever, worrying it will never end.

What would you do? Stay or run for your life and that of your family’s? I know what I would do (and have done). Runnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, to a safe place where my family would have a chance for a better life, a future!

So, you pick whatever you can carry which is obviously your children and some clothes if you can. In the darkness of the…

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Being a parent, being a refugee….

Imagine being a parent of a son of 2years, a daughter of 6years and a daughter of 13years in age. Now imagine your home being rained down with bombs and bullets, seeing fighting all around you, very little food to feed the family, scared to venture out, scared to sleep at night, knowing that many members of your family and many friends are dead as a result of a vicious war that seems to have been going on for ever, worrying it will never end.

What would you do? Stay or run for your life and that of your family’s? I know what I would do (and have done). Runnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, to a safe place where my family would have a chance for a better life, a future!

So, you pick whatever you can carry which is obviously your children and some clothes if you can. In the darkness of the night you leave your beloved home where your children had been born…good memories of happy times.

And now you are on a road which you are hoping will lead you to the safe place. On the way you join hundreds of others who are also running to the safe place. You and the family walk, run, hide, cry quietly… you are all hungry and cold. You are worried about the children. Yesterday, your 6year old daughter was separated from the family. You felt guilty. Why did you not prevent that from happening? Thankfully she is found and you sit her down to explain the dangers of wondering away. But she is falling asleep…hungry again this evening. A few days pass and your 2year old son steps on something sharp and cuts his foot. You wash it with some water, but what if it gets infected. They tell you the refugee camp is almost three days away. You pray…and pray some more. Your 13year old daughter helps you to carry him and watches the wound for signs of redness, swelling, pus. She remembers what she learnt at school in a first aid class.

You have been on the road for two weeks. You and the family are feeling weak. When will this nightmare stop? When will my children enjoy what they had before. School, toys, playing with their friends away from dangers, the love of their grandparents, reading books….You are so weak and distressed you cannot even tell them a story at night or sing them a lullaby. You are so proud of your older daughter who tries to do some of the things you cannot do. You know it is your duty to be a good parent. But you tell yourself that you are now a bad parent. Your reasoning: ‘I cannot provide enough food for them, I cannot make them happy, I cannot keep them safe….’. But your love for them shouts: ‘Don’t give up your hope for a better life, help will come to you, being a parent is a challenge at the best of times and in these bad times the challenge is even bigger’.

The message of my blog is that refugee parents face enormous challenges both during their escape, and during their stay in refugee camps. There is plenty of evidence that children suffer physical and emotional trauma. Some are the victims of sexual abuse, and exploitation of many kinds. Some die. Undoubtedly the challenges continue even when they arrive in the host country of their choice.  But many survive and grow up to be healthy, resilient and model citizens. All they need from society is compassion, which means not only empathy and sympathy but also practical help and relevant action from us.

Robots and Us….

I watched the first episode of ‘Six Robots and Us’ on BBC2 last night. The programme is a unique experiment exploring the latest innovations in robotics. With science fiction fast becoming a reality, how useful can these robots be in enhancing the lives of ordinary families?

We cannot stop progress and the desire of the human mind to push the boundaries of the possible. I have to admit to a large amount of excitement as I watched the programme. I have always been fascinated with technology since I watched the first man landing on the moon. But this was a sharp contrast of my early years.

I grew up in Cyprus, and as a child we did not even have a radio in my house and only very few -and rich- people had a telephone. In my teenage years a television arrived in our  house; what a triumph of technology, I must have thought! As a young person, I was struck by how intelligent our species is, and wondered how far the technological developments will take humans by the time I was old. I must note here that at the time my understanding of ‘old’ was reaching the grand age of 50, after which, one should wait for death to arrive.

Well, I have long passed the age of fifty, I am still alive, and to my amazement, I am now involved in a pioneering research project involving the development of robots that will be culturally competent and will – we hope – help to care of older people. You can now understand my excitement whilst watching the TV programme on robots.

At the same time, I reflected on the irony which exist in the world today. Here we are with amazing technology and the science which can have no bounds in all aspects of life as we go forwards, yet in other ways, our species are going backwards. I will not talk about the catastrophic backward actions and policies concerning the environment even though I strongly believe in the absolute connectivity of humans to the environment.  In this blog, I want to reflect on the plight of the 65.5 million (and growing)  refugees and displaced people in the world.

I ask myself many questions: If humans have the desire to challenge what seemed to be unchallengeable, if they have the intelligence to solve problems which seemed unsolvable, if they have the ability to reach what seemed unreachable, why do they cause so many atrocities, why do they tolerate so many atrocities and why are they so indifferent to so many atrocities?

I know that many of you will tell me that there are complex reasons why these atrocities happen, and I am not so naive as to think that they are not. But my answer to you is, that landing a man on the moon, creating intelligent autonomous robots that will be able to understand and undertake a myriad of tasks, is also complex. But they have happened because we wanted them to happen! And because we wanted them to happen, we made sure our education systems provided the encouragement, the opportunities and the nurturing of humans to make them happen. They happened because humans collaborated with each other, and governments provided the resources and the policies to make these collaborations happen. They happened because the powerful of this planet saw these developments as desirable for them and their allies.

And I dare to think of the unthinkable and abhorrent: Do the powerful people on our planet view these atrocities as beneficial to them and their allies? Because if they didn’t , why would they not work towards bringing a stop to them? Why are we not having an educational revolution? Why are we not revolting against inequalities, poverty, the destruction of our environment, and the suffering and deaths of so many babies and children from starvation and war?

So my wish for the New Year 2018 is that, to start with,  humans re-discover their humanity and work towards bringing an end to the suffering of the displaced and refugee people of the world.

What is your wish? Share it with us in the comments section.



It was around this time of the year, 43 years ago that my husband and I along with our 4 month old baby, arrived in England from Cyprus. We had no luggage (apart from some baby clothes), and no money. What we did have, was HOPE. We had left our country – Cyprus – which had been invaded by Turkey in 1974,  a consequence of which was to abandon our home and everything else we had and run to safety. Just like the refugees which we see on our TV screens today. 

before leaving Cyprus, we lived rough for a few months surviving on donations and UN/Red Cross support and when the first opportunity came our way we boarded a small, old, overcrowded ship sailing to Greece.  Just like the refugees which we see on our TV screens today. 

When we arrived in England we joined my brother’s and sisters’ families and lived with them for a while. We were denied refugee status, instead we were issued with a temporary visitors’ visa. England did not want us. Just like the refugees which we see on our TV screens today. 

But we were much luckier than the refugees we see on our TV screens today.  We did not have to stay in overcrowded detention centres or refugee camps for month or years. We could speak the language of the host country and we had family support. Our HOPE did not leave us. We tried and tried (just like the refugees which we see on our TV screens today) and eventually we were granted leave to remain which allowed us to work, study, and so on.

Just like the refugees which we see on our TV screens today, all we wanted was to be treated like human beings, to have our human rights recognised, to be given a chance! Once we have the chance, we worked hard, paid our taxes, became good citizens of the country which eventually accepted us as its own.

As we approach Christmas, the time of year which celebrates the birth of Jesus, the embodiment of compassion for all Christians, my message to the citizens of Europe, is to open their hearts and give compassion to those people, who, for no fault of their own find themselves in situations that most of us would not wish to ever find ourselves in. The world is big enough for all of us! The world belongs to all of us! Donating money to refugee appeals is not enough. We need to give a bit of our heart and advocate for justice. Nobody should be suffering they way they are.

My message to any refugees who may be reading this is: Never give up HOPE! I know this is easier said than done but don’t let the problems you face now determine your destiny; let your dreams and HOPE drive you to your destiny.  AND THIS IS THE REASON WHY I SHARED MY STORY IN THIS BLOG. I, and almost a quarter of a million of other people in my country, are still waiting to return home. I HOPE that one day this will happen. But I have not stopped living my life and striving towards achieving my dreams!

Sending you all my love and best wishes,

Professor Irena Papadopoulos… yes little refugee me, made it to ‘professor’!!

My shock!

September 13, 2017- I remember this day as a picture I saw in the newspaper (Phileleftheros) moved and shocked me.

A father kneeling down, kissing his children’s hands between the wire fences of the refugee camp. One of the countless stories of refugees that describe pain, violence, uncertainty…. and at the same time hope for reunification, surviving….

Mr A. is from Syria and was separated from his wife and four children a year ago. One of his children (five) died during a fight. His family arrived in Cyprus by boat.

I felt sadness… and at the same time I WAS embarrassed… but then I thought…we need to find ways to be more compassionate, less bureaucratic, more humanitarian, supportive, sensitive and effective in advocating human rights…and saving human lives.

As a health professional and volunteer my heart burstS.  I ask myself:

How can we, as health professionals, help? I suggest:

  • Using the tools provided in the IENE 6 Khub to assess family’s priorities
  • Watch the videos in the Khub platform
  • Volunteer to work in refugee camps
  • Provide psychological first aid
  • Help to reunite families
  • Advocate for human rights
  • Being culturally sensitive

The materials in the IENE 6 Knowledge Hub provides information, knowledge, real stories of volunteers, refugees, AND HEALTH professionals.

Share your experience with us in this blog!

Download the ‘STORY APP’ and Share your story!

Visit the IENE Knowledge Hub for more information, access to all related material and for downloading the ‘STORY APP’ click this link http://ienerefugeehub.eu

by Christiana Kouta

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