Mindfulness in London - An Urban Perspective?

Since embarking on our own mindfulness journeys, the benefits of a sustained mindfulness practice in the City have become very clear. This includes the benefits of a steadily widening of our perspective and perceptions to include the beauty and wonders of urban living as much as its challenges.

At first glance, the City seems deprived of natural beauty, almost suffocating and frantically paced with its 24 hour amenities and constant calls to action. However, if we work with these distractions and perceived difficulties skillfully, by using them as triggers to practice mindfulness in the moment. From our own experience, urban life can be transformed almost instantly.

With a new experiential perspective of nature expressing itself in the multitude of ways offered within an Urban Environment. Our understanding of nature itself expands to include ourselves as humans who are each interconnected and at the same time individually exploring ways to find an inner peace and happiness amidst the hustle and bustle of lifes unfoldings.

Through development of some important techniques and attitudes of heart that mindfulness invites, it’ is considered possible to experience what Mark Williams describes in his book and course as “Peace in a Frantic World”


To us, Urban Mindfulness Practice is the purposeful flourishing of mindfulness in heavily urbanised locations where we are required to embrace the diverse social, cultural, ethnic, and religious differences in order to remove any blockages that prevent us from connecting with our common humanity and the nature that is within and all around us.

Urban mindfulness practice offers unique opportunities for us to develop, mature and flourish collectively.

Urban Mindfulness Practice is a blessing!

The Urban Mindfulness Foundation team considers living in London and urban cities a blessing, this is because we are presented with an infinite number of experiences that can be regular triggers to practice mindfulness in daily life. As part of living an urban life, we can use the regular calls to action including uncomfortable or joyful advertising, marketing and the city hustle and bustle as “triggers” that remind us to embody our mindfulness practice in ways rooted in compassionate actions required to thrive in the midst of it all, moment by moment, breath by breath or even billboard by billboard or traffic jam by traffic jam!

Practising Mindfulness In the City

What seems to be constant hustle and bustle or bombardment of enticing distractions and things to do in the city, can also serve as wonderful opportunities to practice mindfulness as we are each time reminded to connect with our sensory experience, and learn from what we notice whilst at the same time choosing to actively calm our nervous systems to all for new insights and thus responses and or relationships to emerge that benefit our personal and collective wellbeing.

If we can come to observe the thoughts, feelings and emotional responses of aversion, attachment, indifference and grasping to our experiences within city life, and allow ourselves to become curious about how the mind and body responds to such city callings, we can perhaps learn in a very short period of time, a great deal about both ourselves and others that offer a sense of freedom from habitual patterns of reactivity that do not serve us well. So we think that city life provides a unique opportunity to awaken very quickly to the things designed to keep us asleep and disconnected.

Practicing mindfulness in the city and in Urban spaces also provides a unique opportunity to really make a difference. When a person conducts themselves in a mindful way amidst the hustle and bustle of city living, the value of mindfulness becomes really clear, not only to oneself, but also to others. Moreover, having a steady and grounded awareness amidst so many busy minds, offers the urban practitioner an edge, particularly when seeking innovations, new ideas and ways of dealing with challenges.

Triggers to Practice Mindful Compassion In the City

When living and moving around the city, we can use the common sounds, interactions and experiences to remind us to practice mindful awareness and come to the breath or body in any moment of time. Sometimes, it can start with just three or four mindful breaths everytime you hear or experience the following

      • Ambulence or Police Sirens,
      • Flashing lights and Car Horns
      • Traffic Jams and Traffic lights,
      • Pedestrian crossings and even pedestrians
      • Major Junctions and even particular locations
      • Such as retail units, adverts and billboards that we notice or that call for our attention.
By taking a moment to pause, breathe and relax into the body and sensory experience, we can invite opportunites for new insights to arise into how we are socially shaped and also perhaps how we might go about improving or influencing social change for the benefits of all its members most compassionately. 
We describe this practice as “trigger happy practice.”

Aware of any jolting sounds or sights that we experience in the city, we can come back to our full sensory experience including the body, the breath and contact points with the earth. By learning to take a mindful pause and not going into automatic overthinking or habitual emotional reactivity, we offer ourselves new opportunities to respond differently as we access a more grounded awareness of our experience. Read more here….

So is it sensory overload, or a coming to our senses?

As Jon Kabat-Zinn describes, mindfulness is about coming back to our senses and learning from a deeper place of understanding our relationship to sensory and subsequent cognitive experience. So fortunately for us, by living the urban life, we are invited to become aware of our senses almost constantly.

We are gifted with the ability to walk a single street and be acutely aware of our senses, and whether we see it as a sensory overload or the opportunity to come back to our senses is perhaps a matter of perception and practice that with a kind curiosity we can explore as a means to learn the power of our senses and how new ways of responding transform our experiences and then ultimately life itself.

Moving on Transport Practice - Train Meditation

We can also practice what we call “transport practice” when moving around the city on public transport. By bringing our attention to our body and mind, we can notice sensations of being moved from one place to another.

The key to “transport Practice” is to soften into the moment and become interested in the direct experience of the mode of transport we are using and how this affects the body and the mind. How different is the car, to a bus, to a train on a physical level and what are the different thoughts or emotions? Can we meet whatever is there with kind curiosity? Read more here….

Recognising the Beauty in the built Environment

At the Urban Mindfulness Foundation, we also make a point to engage with the beauty of the built environment. The abundance and mixture of masterful architecture representing a manifestation of human nature that cannot be denied in a city.

Wonderful architecture conceived in the human mind is as amazing as a lotus flower. We are like a colony of master builders that are able to reach infinite heights. Just look at buildings like the Shard, the Walkie-Talkie, Cheese Grater or Gherkin in London that will not fail to stimulate a response. Read more here….

This reality has compelled us to share an Urban Mindfulness Foundation poem written by Dean Francis
Can you see the natural landscape peeping through the seams of tarmac?

There is something quite magical about the need to stop, listen and look deeeply, 

to see the city breathing,

As we do this, we notice that below this urban sprawl, 

with all its buildings and miles and miles of tarmac,

Earth Sits naturally, and beautifully, with its undulating landscape that calmly waits for its inevitable return to the ancients glory.

From time to time the ancients still peep through the seams of tarmac to see what is occurring,

and whether there is anything above these streets that is uncontrollably alluring,

and by stopping to notice these moments of birthing, 

we see that mother earth is always there and ready,

Ready in waiting to reclaim the streets and return them to the ancients glory.

But for now, maybe we can just enjoy this moment in time, 

That is also as natural as the earth upon which it sits

Can we enjoy the intervention of another wonder of life,

the wonder of life that we call the human?

So there is no need to despair, this urban sprawl of a landscape will repair,

We just need to accept that it’s a moment in time, and once we are done,

and perhaps taken more than our fair share,

transformation will again occur, in many ways that some might like or not prefer

Nonetheless, reflecting on our Urban Environment this way,

Maybe we can open up to the understanding,

One earth, One beauty, One nation, One people,

One existence 

All just expressions of a continous an infinate life cycle that we often call energy.

Dean Francis, Urban Mindfulness Foundation

Enjoy a visually local East London rendition of the poem ‘My City’ originally written by George the Poet who we consider to be a mindful JEDI warrior