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 bus/train journey 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.

Please note: we do not recommend that you listen to meditation clips while driving or operating machinery.

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? 





Where is home?

Home is where the heart is.

There’s no place like home.

Home sweet home.

There are lots of phrases that we use every day which contain the word home. Everybody seems to know what home means, yet it is something that is difficult to put into words. According to the dictionary, home is ‘the place where you live’. This may refer to the four walls that you live within( e.g. a room, a flat, or a house); or it may refer to a broader concept, such as a town, a city, or a country.

While flat-sharing in London, I’ve come to realise that a place to call home is never really guaranteed, or at least not long-term(I have moved 6 times in 5 years). The idea that home does not have to be a room in a flat or a house, but can just as easily be a state of mind, was unbelievably freeing. I realised that a sense of home can also be an abstract concept, it does not have to be a physical place. It means that even if I have to move from the place I am staying at any given time, I can always recreate a sense of home somewhere else. But it made me think, what about the 65.3 million people in the world who are displaced, how do they cope?

They may have to leave behind literally everything that means ‘home’ to them, and be left with an uncertain future.

For these people, what they call home may have been lost forever.

If home is the house or flat they grew up in, this may have been obliterated in a war or conflict. They may live in a tent or in a refugee camp with cold, unsafe, and unsanitary conditions without running water.

If home is where one has family or friends, they may have had to leave them behind, got separated from them on the journey, or lost them in the war. They may have no idea if their loved ones are safe or if they will ever see them again.

If home is signified by a language or culture, they may have arrived in the midst of a new language and culture that is entirely alien to them and have to learn it from scratch.

If home is a country, thinking about it may bring back traumatic memories. It may not be safe to return there. The country where they are currently seeking asylum may be unwelcoming or have impenetrable immigration systems and legislation, making it difficult or impossible to settle down and make a new home. They may find themselves in limbo waiting for papers, so they cannot yet begin the process of making a home in a new country and rebuilding their lives.

If home is a sense of stability, warmth, familiarity, routine, comfort and safety, it may be replaced by a feeling of loss, uncertainty, instability, and a state of constant anxiety and fear.

Many of the displaced people in the videos on our IENE6 Knowledge Hub describe this sense of loss and of having to leave one’s home, and also what they have done to try to regain the sense of home. For example, in this very moving video, British children ask refugee children questions about their life. One child asks, “What is it like to have no home?” I find this video particularly poignant because of the heart-rending honesty of all of the children but also because the displaced children wish for things like a warm comfortable home and running water. These are things that many of us probably take for granted on a daily basis.

What can be done to combat this sense of loss, and of leaving one’s home behind?

  • Providing a source of independence: Some people have the opportunity to make a new home in the country they try to settle in. In this video [which contains some upsetting scenes] a group of women talk about their experiences fleeing from Syria to Turkey and moving into a home for Syrian refugee women. The women cook meals for people working for charities and aid organisations in the city. This provides them with a source of income to support their children, and social support from other Syrian families. This is a chance for them to re-create a sense of home.
  • Connecting with others: In a blog post by the refugee center online, a young Kurdish refugee who has settled in America gives some very useful advice for people who may be feeling homesick, including visiting family and friends, preparing traditional food from home, and sharing one’s culture with people.
  • Providing psychosocial support and education: In another video, we learn about the services provided in a psychological support centre in Jordan run by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society and the Danish Red Cross. This is a place that Syrian refugee children can play with and meet other children, receive an education, and access psychological support if they need it.

What does home mean to you?

Do you have any experiences or advice that would help displaced people who have lost their homes, or people who are supporting them?

We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Visit the IENE Knowledge Hub for more information and access to all of the videos mentioned in this blog post and more: http://ienerefugeehub.eu/video