FOFBOC – stop and breathe!

It’s time to do some Fofbocing! The letters stand for: Feet On Floor, Body On Chair, and it is one of the meditations taught in the schools programme for teenagers. It is a great meditation to use when you need a few minutes to ground and become present. In the 8 week mindfulness course I introduce this practice and talk about using it as a “punctuation point” in the day…. the importance of taking a few minutes to stop and ‘be’ rather than be caught in the constant flow of ‘doing’. As a culture we seem to be speeding up….the 11am tea break my mother used to enjoy in the ’70s and ’80s where she could stop work and socialise with the other secretaries for 15 mins seeming as quaint an idea now as steam trains.

My grandfather used to cycle home from work to sit down to a full lunch before returning to work for the afternoon. Now, for many, leaving your desk for an hour at lunch to go out for a walk or to chat with colleagues over lunch has been replaced by eating at your desk as you catch up with social media. And afternoon tea is as much of a relic as crinolines and top hats… longer does Mavis clatter around the office with the tea trolly! Add to this the expectation to work overtime, to take work home and for your office to now exist on your lap top so even at night as you sit in bed you may still be ‘at work’ then it is not surprising we are suffering so much from a sense of being burdened.

In this rush to be active we have lost sight of the importance of taking moments to stop. To come back to ourselves as sensing, breathing, feeling beings. There was a story I heard years ago of some English explorers eagerly pushing into the jungle of some part of Africa. They had local men as their porters and at regular intervals these strong men would stop, sit together, talk and rest. The English explorers became annoyed with this and asked them why they kept stopping….to which the men replied “we need to give our souls time to catch up with us”. They knew the importance of stopping!

Using a practice like the FOFBOC is our opportunity to stop for a few minutes, gather ourselves, and de-stress. The sympathetic nervous system is activated when we experience a perceived threat or feel fear or stress. If it goes unchecked throughout the day it can leave us pumped full of adrenalin by the end of the day and result in feeling jittery, on edge and unable to sleep.  Slow, calm breathing activates the rest-and-digest mode of the parasympathetic nervous system….which ideally is where we want to be most of the time, with the fight-flight mode of the sympathetic nervous system only activated when needed. But now we do not just get activated on seeing a sabre toothed tiger… can be an email, our boss saying they will see us in an hour, a look from a colleague we interpret as aggressive, a memory of an argument…….This means we need to know how to administer emotional first aid. We do that by using the FOFBOC.



The video above guides you through a 10 minute mindfulness practice. The basic principle is to feel your weight in the chair, then take your attention to your feet and feel the sensations here and tune in to the sensation of weight in the feet, and then legs.  Once you have a clear sense of this weight and the sensations of your lower body you then rest your attention on the breath – in the belly, or the chest. Then sit for a few minutes with this awareness of the body and the breath. It takes 3 minutes to switch from fight-flight to rest-and-digest, so doing this for three minutes after a difficult phone call, or a tussle with the computer or anything that has caused you to feel threatened will help you re-set.

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