Empowered by mindfulness – Doorways to present moment awareness


Empowered by mindfulness  By Curt Woolford, MA Mindfulness Insturctor, Consultant, and Coach

Doorways to present moment awareness

 Integrating mindfulness into our lives has many benefits. When we are more aware of the present moment, we have access to a richer experience of life.

When I find a deeper sense of presence, it can feel like I’ve opened a door. I step through into an experience of life that is more vibrant, more fulfilling. Mindfulness helps to find this doorway to presence.

Mindfulness practices are divided into two categories: formal and informal. Formal mindfulness refers to practices where we set aside quiet time to turn our attention toward the present moment, as in seated meditation (more on this next week). Informal practices are techniques used throughout the day as we are living our busy lives.

We are hard wired for the fight-flight response with our sympathetic nervous system. Fight-flight is all about survival – we need to effectively dodge saber tooth tigers (or the equivalent). The good news is that we are also hard-wired for the relaxation response. A close call on the highway may be followed automatically by a sigh. Sigh breaths stimulate the relaxation response through the parasympathetic nervous system. Indy, a Seeing Eye puppy I raised a about a year ago, loved sigh breaths. In reaction to the slightest of discipline, he would dramatically sigh several times. Not only did this help him to release stress, I think he enjoyed sending a message of disapproval to whomever was disciplining him. Let’s explore this informal mindfulness practice:

    The Sigh Breaths practice

  • Focus by deliberately stopping everything else that you are doing.
  • Inhale through the nose; exhale through the mouth making a sigh sound.
  • The exhale can be slower than the inhale.

Full Attention

  • Bring your full awareness to meet each breath. Notice sensations and sounds with each inhale and exhale.
  • As you exhale with each sigh, feel a sense of letting go.
  • Invite a sense of relaxation to settle in more with each breath.
  • Enjoy a series of seven sigh breaths or more.


Like Indy, I benefit from sigh breaths when I feel stressed. I have created the habit of sighing when I feel impatient. I also benefit from sigh breath breaks at the computer. Turning attention toward the sound and sensation of breath is also helpful, anchoring attention in the body’s natural presence.

Enjoy a series of sigh breaths several times a day, experimenting with when and where you practice. With persistent practice, you can open a doorway into presence and a deeper connection to each moment of your life.

Questions about Mindfulness?

Visit www.curtwoolford.com for more information about mindfulness and www.curtwoolford.com/guided-practice for guided audio practices.

About Curt Woolford, MA

Mindfulness Insturctor, Consultant, and Coach

Curt’s professional background includes mindfulness, organizational development, organizational communication, and human resource development. He is founder and director of the Mindfulness program for Crozer-Keystone Health System where he teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction and develops workshops for physicians and nurses. Curt’s mindfulness at work consulting includes Drexel Emergency Medicine, Lourdes Health System, Crozer Chester Medical Center, Independence Blue Cross, Drexel Law School, Philadelphia Bar Association, Subaru of America, Swarthmore College, and Penn State University.

Curt has been a practitioner of mindfulness for 30 years. He has studied mindfulness-based stress reduction with Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Penn Program for Mindfulness, and the Jefferson Mindfulness Institute. Curt has been an instructor of mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, and qigong for 20 years. With degrees in Philosophy and Educational Psychology, Curt brings a deep awareness of the learning process to his mindfulness instruction.