I don’t know many things, but there is something I know for a fact. If you are reading this, you are breathing, and I hope you continue to do so!
Breathing is something we do ALWAYS. Everywhere we go, every thing we do, every thought we have, every emotion we feel, is accompanied by the breath. That is why the simple act of breathing is one of the foundations of a healthy Mindfulness practice.
For something that is present 100% of the time, we don’t usually pay much attention to it. That is okay, because most of the time it does pretty well on its own. But what would happen if we were to pay more attention to it?
The simple act of bringing awareness to your breath can help you in asserting your presence in the present. I find that when I am focusing on my breath I can begin to filter through the other noise happening around me and within me just a little bit easier and clearer.
For example, if I am hungry, I might be so focused on what I would like to eat that the situation I am dealing with at work just starts to slip away. If instead of my stomach, I bring my attention to my breath on purpose, it becomes much easier to remain focused on the task at hand.
This practice doesn’t make my hunger go away, because let me tell you, I remain very very hungry! But it gives me a chance to set it aside and fully involve myself in my work.
As some background information, I work in a special education school for students with challenging behaviors. My job is crisis intervention. When students become unsafe, I am the one who gets called to ensure the safety of that student, staff, and the other students. This can look like a whole range of things including deescalation and physical management. Long story short, if I let my hunger get in the way of my job, people could get seriously hurt. If I become to reactive or start to get irritated because I lose focus on my professional training I could end up making a situation worse all because I am hangry.
Now, that can be an extreme example of the importance of this practice, but I think it begins to outline the benefits.
Sit in a Mindful Position. Take a couple of deep breaths and let your breathing stabilize. Begin to bring your awareness to your breath.
Think to yourself, ¨Breathing in… I am breathing in… Breathing out… I am breathing out…¨ Repeat this in sync with your breath.
If it helps, you can imagine a small particle following your flow of breath in and out of your lungs.
See how long you can maintain focus on nothing but your breath. If your mind wanders, that is okay, simply redirect your awareness back to the flow of your breath. It is more important to be nice to yourself when your mind wanders, than to maintain focus. All of our minds wander and it is impossible to maintain total focus for very long. It is a skill you learn just like riding your bike. Did you get upset with yourself the first time you got on a bike and needed training wheels? I hope not!
Once you practice this in a formal way, trying experimenting with it during everyday life. If you are walking, focus on your breath. If you are in the middle of a task, focus on your breath. Just notice what happens when you focus on your breathing during your day.
That’s right! There is homework! You thought this would be just another blog post to read and forget about completely! I’m not going to let you off that easy.
For your homework, find something to serve as your anchor to your breath. An anchor could be anything that you decide will serve as a remind to practice Mindfulness. In this case, we want to find something that will remind us to focus on our breath.
I have a couple of anchors that I use and switch out on. Currently I wear a bracelet to remind myself of mindful breathing. We made them in my schools Mindfulness Club with the students! I found the act of making the bracelet a Mindfulness practice in and of itself as well. Simply noticing every single detail of the bracelet and the process of making it proved to be quite pleasant. I think it also instill in my mind that it was going to serve as an anchor.
Another thing that is helpful is to decide on an action that you do frequently to serve as an anchor. For example, if you choose the action of opening a door, every time you touch a door handle, remember to focus on your breathing.
With an anchor, we begin to work proactively with our mind and set ourselves up for success.
One thing to remember, your breathe is always in the present, follow it.