Thursday, March 4, 2010

Focused Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is the foundation of many relaxation techniques and some forms of meditation.  It is an important part of the practice of mindfulness, and of quieting the mind.  It helps bring our attention back from what we're encountering in the world, to ourselves.  There are many types of deep breathing, and all are helpful.  Deep breathing techniques are very simple to do, and over time and with practice can help us get more in touch with our inner voice, and our own truth.  The hardest part of this is making a commitment to regular practice.

The technique that I teach to patients at work is called focused deep breathing.  In class, people usually practice this technique for about 5 minutes, and almost always report feeling more calm and centered in that short amount of time.  It's a good idea to begin in a quiet place where you can sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed.  Closing our eyes helps us reduce distraction and bring our attention within. 

Begin by noticing whatever you notice outside of yourself; outside of your own space, so to speak.  This could be any number of things, voices of people nearby, the hum of the refrigerator, temperature, anything that is not you.  This is the place where our attention is focused most of the time, on things outside of ourselves.  That isn't a problem, because we are in the world and dealing with things.  But we also need an amount of time when we are "off", not attending to the details of living but being aware of our inner world.

Gently begin to shift your attention to become aware of what you notice on the inside.  You may notice your heart beating, your chest rising and falling with your breathing, or the weight of yourself in the chair.  This is the place where we will keep our attention, as much as possible, during deep breathing.  Everything else will wait.

Notice your breathing, whether it is fast or slow, or shallow or deep.  Allow yourself to begin to breathe a little more deeply, but comfortably; there is no need to force it.  As you begin to center yourself in your deep, comfortable breathing, remind yourself that right now, all I have to do is breathe.

During this time your mind will wander, because our minds like to be busy.  When you notice that your thoughts have drifted away, gently bring them back to your breathing, without judgement.  Spend as many minutes as you'd like being centered in your breathing.  When you are ready, gently open your eyes.

I had a woman in class yesterday who was struck by the idea that all I have to do is breathe.  She said that the realization that she could actually live like that, even for a few minutes at a time, changed her world.  What I saw was that it helped her realize that she has a choice about how she will experience her moments.   She created a much bigger space to be present in creating her world.

I sometimes use a deep breathing technique before I begin my meditation or other spiritual practice.  It is a simple but very powerful way to connect with our truth.

May this tool be a blessing. . .

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