By Jackie Arnold
Mindfulness in times of crisis

Mindfulness in times of crisis

The practise of mindfulness when facing a crisis or challenging situation.

The term “mindfulness” in Theravada Buddhism is described as Satipathana - Sati being the element of awareness and Pathana the element of keeping present.

So how do you stay in the present moment and not be dragged into unhelpful and stressful emotions and thoughts?

A case study of true presence and personal mindfulness in action:

I lived in Switzerland for fourteen years from 1972 -1986. In Switzerland high in the mountains there are incredibly agile mountain goats. They climb in crevices and along ridges that seems impossible to those gazing from below. In fact many people are unable to see them as they are so far away and so well camouflaged. In addition there are tiny deer leaping from rock to rock and grazing on the rich grass far away from human habitation. Marmots are also hiding in the undergrowth so shy that people often do not realise they exist.  

There are, however, people who have no trouble hearing and seeing these creatures. The mountain people have trained themselves to practice a kind of mindful stillness from within. They are so aware of their own body, presence and surroundings they are able to see and hear with a sharpness so elusive to others. It is this kind of stillness and acute connection with the heart of nature that creates this special bond. The energy of nature and all it offers us, if we just take the time to listen and observe. 

I was fortunate in that my father in law was a Swiss mountain guide. From the first moment I met him I noticed how he observed and listened attentively to anyone who spoke to him. He responded to the present moment with a profound sense of calm and deep awareness. He seemed to know instinctively what you needed without asking. If you were sad or happy, needed space or company he would know and with few words was able to convey his love and quiet presence when needed.

He took us to the mountains on many occasions and his connectedness with nature was astounding. I remember feeling frustrated when I was unable to see and hear what he so easily saw and heard. Animals in the shady crevices, tiny mountain flowers, birds high in the sky, trickling water – he had no better hearing or sight, just mindful presence and oneness with all that surrounded him. Slowly I dropped my wanting to see and I saw a tiny movement. Quietly I observed emotions in my body began breathing from my heart and noticed my surroundings, just as they were and not as I had imagined. I became still and curious with less expectation. Images, sensations, feelings and sounds all began to have a clarity I had not known before.

I began to discover a real moment to moment awareness of how everything was connected; A realisation that all was as it needed to be, in that particular space and time. It was fascinating to realise that aspects of my own way of being had obscured what I felt, saw and heard. 

Some mindfulness tips:

  1. Take time to become still and grounded with both feet firmly on the ground
  2. Breathe from your diaphragm (just under the rib cage) and into your heart area
  3. Feel the breath coming slowly into your lungs – breath in for 4 and out for 4
  4. Mindfully notice your surroundings, what you see, hear, feel, sense…
  5. Place a thought in your mind to notice and observe everything in more detail than before
  6. Allow your senses and your body to guide you to creative thoughts and wise decisions

Jackie Arnold – Executive Coach & Supervisor w


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