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The Power in Mindful Practices: Opinion Piece

Mar 26, 2021 09:00AM ● By Nina Indigo
I recently interviewed Susan Barr-Toman, a meditative mindful writing instructor and coach for the University of Pennsylvania’s Mindfulness Space Stress Reduction Program. Since the start of the pandemic, Barr-Toman has been conducting virtual sessions. Based on what I learned, I believe her philosophy of mindfulness teaching is effective.

During her interview, Barr-Toman shared valuable insight into how she runs her sessions. She explained that she breaks her mindfulness writing session down into 3 sections. You need a quiet area, a chair, a mat, and a pen and paper for the end of the session. Once you have all of your tools you are ready to begin and drift away peacefully into a mindful meditation practice session. I recommend doing a 30 minute DIY mindful writing session in your home at least once a week. Most students utilize meditative mindful writing sessions when in a time of crisis, such as losing a job, getting divorced, suffering a loss, leaving a bad relationship, or dealing with mental distress. Ultimately, mindfulness practice helps to teach you how to approach your life differently. Use these steps for a successful meditative mindful writing session:

Structure Your Breathing Method

When starting your session, for the first 10 minutes you should be sitting in a chair or on a mat. However,  Barr-Toman reccomends using a chair for best results. Practice taking deep smooth breaths in from the abdomen, then slowly releasing your breaths. You are to do nothing but breathe. The goal is to completely in the present. This is a powerful mechanism to teach in mindfulness sessions. Anyone who is used to constantly being on the go must learn to be patient with themselves and be in the moment. Remember, the concept of mindful practice is that you live in the moment.

Begin a Solitude Meditation in Silence

For the next 10 minutes you are observing your thoughts. Once you have control of your breathing, your mind should be exploring. You could now be feeling worried, anxious, fatigued, depressed, or stressed. If any of these emotions listed came to the surface, most likely you want to change something of the past. This is not good. You cannot control your thoughts, no one can. You only have the power to change what you perceive of them. For the final 5 minutes, open your eyes, take a look around you and where you are in this moment. Remind yourself that everything is okay right here at this moment. Your mind and body are in the present. This is mindful thinking. Now that your mind and body are working together, it works. Your blocked mind becomes unblocked.

Now, Start Freewriting

In the last 10 minutes of the session you should write anything you feel like writing. You can write 2-3 sentences one day, and write another 2 or 3 sentences the next time. The key is to keep your mind in the present, allowing for a creative space. It’s all about exploring your creativity now that your mind is open to all thoughts and ideas. It’s about letting go. This is being present. The practice of mindfulness is a natural alternative to practice releasing any stress or anxiety. In Barr-Toman’s interview closing, she explained why and how mindfulness is essential to holistic health and wellness practices:

“Being in the now and live life as it happens, meditating every day builds awareness by anchoring your breath, building your awareness muscles. This brings awareness to other parts of your life and can be applied to bring the tools you learned through mindfulness to different elements of your lives, such as love, kindness, and compassion.”


You can practice this routine at home any time during your week. However, if you prefer the comfort of an instructor, Barr-Toman welcomes you. Below you can find her brief bio and contact:

Susan Barr-Toman teaches mindfulness and writing in her Mindful Writing workshops. Since 2017, she is an affiliated faculty member at the Penn Program for Mindfulness. She is the author of the award-winning novel When Love Was Clean Underwear and her work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and, most recently, in the Longleaf Review among others. Visit her at

Facebook: @susanbarrtoman 

Twitter: @SBarrToman

LinkedIn: Susan Barr-Toman, link: 

Starting March 1st, I'm offering Free Mindful Mondays in March at 12 noon. I will lead a meditation for 5-10 minutes and then offer a writing prompt. We'll write until 12:30 pm. Those interested can email me at [email protected] to sign up.

 Upcoming events with Penn Mindfulness:

The Body Tells the Story, a 2-hour Mindful Writing workshop, Saturday, April 10 from 10 am to 12 noon. $49.

Building a Mindful Writing Practice, a 6-week Mindful Writing workshop series, Wednesday evenings, April 21 through May 26, 6-8 pm. $325.

For information on my (online for now!) Mindful Writing workshops use this link:

Also, check out Robin Hall’s information listed below…

Robin Hall, BA, is the operations manager for the mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. In addition, she teaches the 8-week foundation course. She also specializes, develops, coordinates, and facilitates programming for the people of color initiative. Her idea is to make mindfulness practice more accessible and relevant to this audience.

 Free Open Sitting for People of Color on the third Thursday of every month from 6-7 pm. Email [email protected] to be added to the list.

This spring, she will lead a POC Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction foundational online program on Wednesday evenings (6-8 pm), beginning May 5 and ending June 23. There will be a 5-hour long retreat on June 13 from 10 am-3 pm. Registration will open in a few weeks.

Penn's website: service/mindfulness

Nina Indigo is a Storyteller and Digital Journalist @ FunTimes Magazine. She is also a Contributor to InClub Magazine. She writes on topics for the health and wellness segments. She practices Vegetarianism, loves poetry, African/African American Literature, creative writing, research, yoga poses, and meditation.

In her articles, she provides her readers with organic content for people of all backgrounds and communities, she is truthful, writes to empower and inform. She helps readers make their best holistic decisions in their lives, communities, and societies. In 2021, she will obtain her BA in English Writing, with a minor in African and African American Literature Studies. To follow up on her latest articles google Nina Indigo @ FunTimes. You can also follow her @ In her articles, her motive is to provide to her readers a how, and why holistic health is not just important, it's a necessity to our whole well-being. Her articles do not simply empower and inform but present relevant ideas and solutions to the essential wellness topics discussed.

More articles by Nina Indigo:

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