Mindfulness Made Easy – Practice #1 Breathe

Here is the first of my 50 Mindful Practices. The manuscript of my upcoming book is off at the editors as of today! I plan to blog one of these each week, so sign up on my website if you want to get them automatically in your email box. I welcome your feedback and please pass along to your friends!


Practice 1: Notice your breath

What it is.

When we get anxious we tend to fall into the habit of shallow rapid breathing. This results in more tenseness and less oxygen going to the lungs. Because breathing is automatic, we take it for granted. We do not realize that we may be breathing quickly or slowly; shallowly or deeply – or at all. Yet research shows that deep breathing can not only slow your metabolism and lower your body temperature, but also slow your heart rate and even create altered states and healing. Indeed it has been shown that seven deep breaths can both clear and calm your brain. Deep breathing, however, requires conscious effort – beyond our natural impulse. This practice will help you become aware of your breath and be better able to use your breath to induce calm.If you find your breath is shallow, try to breath deep into your diaphragm (the muscle between your chest and abdomen). Imagine cool air moving in and warm air moving out. If your chest is rising more than your belly, try to switch it around. Keep in mind however that mindful breathing is not so much about controlling your breath, but rather, noticing it.

What to notice.

Can you feel the air moving in through your nose and mouth and into to your lungs? Can you feel it circulating in your body? Notice how the air actually lifts you up and then gently down, into a settled state. Did you notice that simply breathing causes your shoulders to drop? When you were consciously breathing were you less or more aware of what is going on around you?

How to do it.

You need from 5-15 minutes for this practice. Find a quiet place where you can be alone for a few minutes. Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the ground. Settle in until you feel stable. Just breathe normally. After a few breaths, relax. Now take several quick breaths in and out, as if you were running or pumping your lungs. After a few breaths, relax. Then take a few very deep and slow your breaths as slow as you can. After a few breaths, relax. Go back to your regular breathing. Finally take one really deep breath and try to pull the air deep into your stomach, like you are inflating an air mattress.

“The act of breathing is one of the most fundamental processes of life itself. In many sacred traditions, the breath is recognized as the sources of vital energy for both body and mind.“ Cathy Malchiodi

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