“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor”
I was reminded of the above quote from Thich Nhat Hanh this morning in my morning meditation practice. I have been starting my day with 30 minutes of sitting with my breath, and am noticing some wonderful things about myself.
I was quite relaxed, with my mind fairly still and my breath deep. My mind wandered off for a couple of moments (I have no idea how long for really), dwelling on a topic that is causing me some moments of deep sadness and confusion at the moment.
I got so caught up in this emotionally charged thinking, that I didn’t notice it.
What I did notice, however, was the changes to my breath.
Whereas for most of the time my breath was slow, relaxed and deep, it changed completely when I got distracted by thoughts and emotions. Deep breathing stopped, and I realised that I was barely breathing at all. As soon as I noticed this, I noticed my thoughts. I tried to take a deep breath, and that first one was really difficult. It was as if my thoughts had closed my lungs down.
I focused on my breathing as it was in that moment, allowed the thoughts to pass, and soon enough, my breathing returned to the slow, deep state quickly, and I was able to relax back into a peaceful practice.
The connection between the breath and the emotions is a profound one, as I have already written about.
Your breath can help you to notice your emotions and your thoughts, as it did for me this morning. It can help to soothe and calm them as well.
But what if, like that first moment for me this morning, your emotions are causing you such anxiety that you can’t take that deep breath? What do you do then?
This is where the ideas of acceptance and letting go come into their own.
If your body cannot take a deep breath right now, then don’t. I know from personal experience that if you try to breathe deeper than your lungs are currently able to that it can cause physical pain. Accept that this is where you are right now, and let go of the need to try to do anything else.
Instead of trying to force a calming deep breath, which, if forced may do the exact opposite, simply breathe consciously. Focus your attention on your breath no matter how it is. Pay close attention to the quality, the sound, the sensations of the breath. Maybe you might picture your breath moving in and out of the lungs. Find a space for gratitude that you are breathing, appreciate what little breath you have right now, and know that it is there for you.
If you struggle to take an in breath, focus on the out breath. Many of the great sages tell us that if we focus on the out breath, then the in breath naturally takes care of itself.
When we focus on the release and the letting go, everything else works out just fine.
If you are able to do this for a few breaths, you may find that your breath naturally starts to slow. This often happens naturally when we start to think about the breath. The very act of becoming conscious of the breath brings mind and body more into balance. As Thich Nath Hanh says above, conscious breathing can become your anchor that can hold you steady in the hurricanes of life.
Practice makes progress
While deep, conscious breaths do work if you use them in moments of stress and anxiety, if you are able to make sitting with your breath a regular practice, you will find that it works much better for you.
When you regularly turn your attention to your breath, it strengthens that connection between mind and body. It can help you develop that awareness of your thoughts and emotions.
Regularly practicing helps to keep your body and mind in a more relaxed state. You may notice that the incidents of anxiety lessen. It can help to strengthen your resilience, improve sleep and help you manage your emotions. All this and more will provide you with a life jacket to protect you from those hurricanes of life.
In the 5 Minute Breath Challenge, I invite you to try this for yourself, and commit just 5 minutes a day for 10 days to sitting with your breath. You don’t have to change your breath, you just have to sit and notice it, and be fully present in your moment.
You can join the 5 Minute Breath Challenge right now. I will send you a video with the daily practice, a printable journal, and an invite to a Facebook group where you can share your journey with other participants. You will receive daily emails from me to inspire, motivate and remind you to practice.
It’s only 5 minutes.
It’s just 10 days.
It’s only sitting and noticing.
It could change your life.
What have you got to lose? And more importantly, what have you got to gain?
Register now and find out!