Breathe

I visited a blog the other day, ZenHabits by Leo Babauta (ba-ba-uta), and the thing that struck me right away was his breathe button.  Instantly my attention was on my breathing. Focusing on my breathing forced me into the present, into the moment and allowed me to set down the baggage I hadn’t even realized I was carrying.  I noticed that I embodied physically all the stress from my very long work day. My chest muscles and jaw felt tense, pressure seemed like it had built up at the top of my head.

Breathe…

Which brings me to mindfulness meditation

I wanted to share with you some effective mindfulness and breathing techniques that I use both personally and with my clients.

Breathing calms us down, slows down our heart rate. Breathing can dislodge us from the grips of a panic attack, or deescalate a fit of rage before we do or say something that can’t be taken back.

Mindfulness helps to clear our minds from negative thoughts and self doubt that can weigh us down emotionally, and drain our physical energy. It works as a kind of tuning fork, harmonizing your cardio-vascular and central nervous systems together with our conscious mind. Whenever I do a mindfulness exercise I feel healthier.

Below I have included my favorite mindfulness exercise  as well as a breathing technique that works particularly well for obliterating panic attacks. I have also linked to several great mindfulness sites if your curious about learning more.

First, a breathing technique to obliterate panic attacks

Slowly…

Inhale… one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand (to ten)

Then, just as slowly…

Exhale…  one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand (to ten)

Repeat several times or until your heart rate has become calm, and adrenaline has subsided.

Next, my favorite quick mindfulness technique from the book Mindfullness, by Danny Goleman. It’s called the Three-minute Breathing Space meditation.

Three-minute Breathing Space meditation

Step 1: Becoming aware

Deliberately adopt an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bring your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledge it, asking: what is my experience right now?

  • What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events.
  • What feelings are here? Turn towards any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them without trying to make them different from how you find them.
  • What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations, but, once again, not trying to change them in any way.

Step 2: gathering and focusing attention

Now, redirecting the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath, move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present. And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath.

Step 3: expanding attention

Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and facial expression, as if the whole body was breathing. If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, feel free to bring your focus of attention right in to the intensity by imagining that the breath could move into and around the sensations.  In this, you are helping to explore the sensations, befriending them, rather than trying to change them in any way. If they stop pulling for your attention, return to sitting, aware of the whole body, moment by moment.

The hourglass shape of the Breathing Space

It is helpful to view your awareness during the Breathing Space as forming the shape of an hourglass. The wide opening at the top of an hourglass is like the first step of the Breathing Space. In this, you open your attention and gently acknowledge whatever is entering and leaving awareness.

The second step of the Breathing Space is like the narrowing of the hourglass’s neck. It’s where you focus your attention on the breath in the lower abdomen. You focus on the physical sensations of breathing, gently coaxing the mind back to the breath when it wanders away. This helps to anchor the mind – grounding you back in the present moment.

The third step of the Breathing Space is like the broadening base of an hourglass. In this, you open your awareness. In this opening, you are opening to life as it is, preparing yourself for the next moments of your day. Here you are, gently but firmly, reaffirming a sense that you have a place in the world – your whole mind–body, just as it is, in all its peace, dignity and completeness.

Cool Mindfulness Links

UCLA Mindfulness Research Center   Pocket Mindfulness.com    Free Mindfulness.org and last but not least

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