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My bet is most of the time you’re too busy doing all the thinking, the rehearsing, replaying, evaluating and so on, to notice much of your underlying existential state. Yet obviously without such awareness we’re like dogs being led by their tails, while what we want and need to be is the opposite: gods wagging their tales – in a state of unshakable equanimity – because we know that’s the only way we truly optimize and gain full value from this once in a lifetime ride along the Great Thoroughfare.

To wit, beloved member of my human family, I proffer you a complementary, VIP, on-the-house, guest list with backstage dressing room access all areas pass to a sequence of three super-simple, succinct yet potentially properly potent mindfulness exercises to induce just such a level of self-awareness.

EXERCISE 1 –  ‘I refuse to sleepwalk through life so I’m doing this simple Barefoot Doctor mindfulness exercise’ exercise

DSC_1132Today you’ll have various basic activities planned, scheduled, or required – could be just the basic obvious ones of having a shower, clearing up the kitchen, getting dressed or whatever. Choose one of these – preferably one that’ll only take about 4 minutes – do it right now as we’re speaking.

Then when it comes time to do the chosen activity, rather than continuing the rehearse/replay/evaluate game in the forebrain, just for the duration of that particular activity, say it’s going through your bathroom routine, let your only thought be

I am going through my bathroom routine‘,

or break it down to


I’m showering’,

I’m looking in the mirror,

I’m applying my magic miracle face cream that makes me look so much younger I’m actually now looking like the old person I was before I died in my last life, damn I better stop using this shit,

I’m thinking nonsense,

I’m leaving the bathroom‘.

Obviously apply this to any similar activity – something that lasts no more than between say 4 and 7 minutes and during which you truly only have the ‘I am doing…’ whatever it is thought running repeatedly as a mantra loud enough to override the noise of any other thought.

When done finally ask yourself, ‘Who is it observing all this and who is asking this question?’ And don’t answer either.

EXERCISE 2 – Best Game

question_markNote that aspect of the mind engaged in rehearsing (preparing for any particular event, conversation, meeting or obligation by picturing it and making stories up about it, then figuring out how to deal with whatever you make up in the stories – and then getting variously anxious or excited).

Notice which part of the brain that ‘voice’ originates from – and ask who’s voice is it, this rehearsal director – is it purely yours or is it an internalized composite of teachers, parents etc.

Now note the aspect of mind engaged in reviewing – analyzing and appraising your performance so far in any given activity, notice the tone of thought and whether you’re defaulting to being critical or encouraging of yourself. Notice which part of the brain this ‘voice’ originates and whether it’s your voice and if not whose? Also notice whether these two voices are the same and in the same part of the brain or not.

Finally ask, ‘who is this observing and who is it asking this question?’ but do not attempt to answer – simply leaving it hanging like low-hanging fruit ready to be picked off by the subconscious which will then let you know the answer in its own time.

Have a go and see what happens within in terms of subtle shifts in the dynamic between you and your mind, your body, your emotions and what you’re perceiving and describing as ‘your life’ – I’ve been doing it for decades and can attest to it as the best game there is.

EXERCISE 3 – Surprise Yourself

balanced_stonesSuddenly, without warning, taking yourself by surprise, divert all attention away from whatever you’ve just been doing or thinking about and place it entirely in your right knee – if you don’t have one, put it in the nearest major joint to where it would have been – and feel what’s going on in the joint – notice whether you’re contracting the muscles of the tip of the thigh as if pulling up from the knee and away from the ground, or whether you’re pushing into the knee – it;s subtle but feel it – then notice whether the joint is feeling contracted or relaxed, cold or war, scared (you can feel fear in any part of the body) or excited.

Notice also how it feels strange to use your awareness to feel into a knee joint yet is the most natural thing in the world. Ask yourself, who is it observing this and who is it asking this question – do not answer, merely let the question hang so your subconscious can answer it for you.


Leave a comment below to let me know how you got on

Go here for full details of Barefoot Doctor’s
Advanced Taoist Mindfulness Online Retreat & Training

21 Responses to “

  • If the 2 voices, the one who questions and the one wo answers come from inside me….does it mean that I have 2 personalities? A fake one and a real one? LOL

    I did an exercise the other day with a prune. With eyes closed I touched it, I smelled it, I tasted it and finally I put it next to one of my ears and pressed it…and I could hear her sound…like an ouch sound. If I tell this to a physicologist he will tell me I’m kind of crazy. But I know you will understand me.
    That’s why I love to hear from you all the time.

    And the knee exercise….wow…she was so forgotten!!! She even thanked me for noticing her and all the job she does for me all the time!!!

    Thank you for making me realize that even “normal” things can make you happy!

    And may you always have that sense of humor that I love so much!

  • Janet Brighton
    2 years ago

    Exercise 3 – couldn’t seem to separate the knee joint and feel into it, more that I imagined what it might feel.
    Exercise 2 – Liked that phrase, “rehearsal director” and having done this for over six decades now with great imagination, it’s just so normal to do. Some of the voices are my own, but mostly those learnt from social conditioning. This exercise resonated the most, seemed most important for me personally. I’d like to not rehearse negative outcomes, fears, made up stories, for sure, but so often I don’t feel like doing things others seem to enjoy, and once served me well too, so I seem to have to rehearse all the wonderful possible outcomes, so that if I make a real effort to do these, get off the couch, often I’m disappointed, and wish hadn’t bothered. So then the negative seems to serve me better in the latter (excited) instance, as I am more realistic?

  • Marie Herbert
    2 years ago

    Ahhhh! What a good idea! I have been having trouble with my knees, but have I given them any real attention? No. This was very curious as I felt as if I was in my cave of the mind at the back, (like wot you ask us to do) but I suddenly realised how my knees feel a bit disconnected from me and the process of life, as though they are taken for granted. So, I have decided to give them each a bit of loving, and they feel rather coy and embarrassed but they kinda like it, and so I am becoming lovingly and mindfully aware of them. What a surprise! Hey ho! love as always, LMH

  • My whole body retired to allow my subtle consciousness to focus on the area of my right knee

  • ” Suddenly, without warning, taking yourself by surprise, divert all attention away from whatever you’ve just been doing or thinking about and place it entirely in your right knee …”
    This was too funny not to try and doing it was even funnier. I experienced an odd acknowledgment for my right knee, which is hardly acknowledged enough by yours truly.
    So I said : Hello there, right knee ! Thank you for being there and working so well, as I go up and down that hill every day without you going funny on me. Thank you, dear right knee. I love you for working so well all these years without complaining and giving me trouble in any way whatsoever. Yes indeed, that right knee needed a bit of encouragement,
    and thanked me for it.
    And Thank You, dear BD for reminding me to become aware of that right knee,
    and making me laugh out loud while doing so.
    Laughter is where it’s at, when doing your Zen exercises. ( HJL )

  • Maureen
    2 years ago

    Wow. There IS fear in my knee. Subtle message but somehow very revealing. Like a gentle tap on the shoulder from the ‘observer.’ So much indeed going on when we bring our awareness into the nooks and crannies right here right now.

  • Dawn Buffalo Heart
    2 years ago

    Focus on the knee does seem strange, but when I tried it, I immediately became aware that I was ungrounded! As I continued to focus–on both knees, now–I could feel my energy and my body being drawn downward, grounding me more fully. My stomach felt calmer, my mind started to calm and slow down, and I am now asking myself: what the heck am I getting myself so worked up about?

    It’s as if the True Self of me has stepped forward to take over and guide me.

    Doc, your wisdom is so neat! Bowing in your direction – hugs and gratitude – Dawn

  • David C
    2 years ago

    Nice one Doc.This is hard to do, but it’s interesting. There is a rehearsal director that has my voice and is in a slightly different part of the head than the reviewing (always critical so far) voice. But what happens next? I might just have to do the training. Thanks

  • My dear, you make me smile again and again…..

    Thank you, again and again…

  • Have found the exercise of breaking things down really helpful. Am going through a difficult time, and it has helped me to focus on the present much more. I went for a 40 minute walk and managed to stay in the present at least half the time!! Many thanks!

  • Thanks BF for this exercise. I know it but when you put it another way it reminds me to try afresh. Only I forgot and then I forgot it again. It really shows the resistence the mind has to slowing down. I m glad tho when it pops into my mind unexpected. This happened today. I m very grateful for your reminders. You are inspiring me anew. Thanks again.


  • I am aware in just washing up a few bits and pieces, that when i am present, just doing it, that I have the opportunity to bring joy into that moment, and when I move on to the next job I feel stronger and happier and healthier, and loved immensely. And it is such a little thing as loving focus for just a moment, that works this miracle.

  • This seemed like something I naturally do anyhow. But then “I” haven’t got my mobile (cell)phone in the bathroom with me, or kitchen, or when I’m talking to others, or shopping, (except in an emergency situation. And I don’t multitask. The Hare and the Tortoise fable comes to mind. But thank you for sharing.

  • Pnina C Gagnon
    2 years ago

    I am doing what I am told to do – do this, and now that, and all the things you have to do, the million things, and one more – the one I really love to do, I am so busy and rejected to help the one person who really need my help!

  • Peter G Ziminsky
    2 years ago

    i AM Magic – walking into the kitchen – I pour some fresh water into the coffee maker carafe – I am getting the fresh ground organic coffee from the fridge and putting it in the filter – hit the on button – I turn on the computer,see this email, smell the coffee,get up, go for that first cup…you can smell and taste it from there…I know! Have as much as you like, peace and love brother, PGZ

  • Marie Herbert
    2 years ago

    As always, dear Steph, I Am full of amazement at your turn of phrase and unique sense of humour. Love it. And yes, I am enjoying all the lovely tidbits from the various courses. Do still fall off the perch of having onto the frail branch of wanting, but that just keeps me awake. Yeh, really enjoying the ride and feel blessed beyond measure being part of this great Aliveness that you generate with such love and humour. hugs, Marie

  • John at the Falls
    2 years ago

    It was interesting when I realized all the unnecessary things running through my brain when I did routine chores that required no real conscious thought. Then I found that I could have control over my random thoughts and use my started to manage my thoughts.

    It was soon after that I stopping automatically turning on the stereo in my car.
    Why do we always have to have background music?
    These days I tend to purposely ponder the action items I have for my plans and goals. I research and design inventions. … pursuit of visions.

    I am interested to see where these lessons go.

    Peace and Love

  • Well that was interesting….feeling quieter and more “here”. You’ve done
    it again. Another unexpected surprise, an internal giggle?!
    Thank you dear BD.

  • I’m walking in the fresh air with Merlin,( the Magician,) breathing deeply in and out,
    and all is well with the world. Merlin’s sniffing squirrel and rabbit trails, looking longingly up that tree where one of them is chattering ( a squirrel) while I put one foot in front of the other, making sure not to slide down that slippery slope.
    While sitting in back ( or on top ) of that amygdala,
    I greet my brother BD, and his entourage : Sue du Crew, Emma: my dear friend from The Little Red School-House, and David who has the most beautiful voice singing: ” When you’re comin’ to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair … ” or when reciting Robert Burns’ poetry. Yours truly, HJL

  • i don’t understand this …………sorry

  • My room got a nice quick tidy-up and I didn’t get distracted by the million other little jobs that need doing that came to light as I found things under the mess… Now I’m going for a nap.

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