Ever wanted a fool proof technique to stay calm no matter what?
Even if you got dumped with a last minute deadline or have to present to a large audience or end up starting a new job.
Even if everything you’ve tried before hasn’t worked – including tranquilizers.
Because there’s something that can help focus a scattered mind. That can keep you calm and centred in yourself no matter what you’re facing. Something that will always be there as long as you are alive. Something you are probably taking for granted.
It’s the movement of the breath in and out of the body.
Does that sound familiar?
Let me explain.
The 3-minute breathing space follows three steps of roughly one minute each.
In the first step you adopt an erect and dignified posture. Either 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?
Ask yourself what thoughts, feelings and body sensations are here right now.
Don’t turn away from any unpleasant thoughts, feelings or body sensations simply recognise them without trying to change them.
In the second step you move your attention to the physical sensations of the breath. To the movement of the breath in the abdomen. Following it as it expands as the breath comes in. Following it as it contracts as the breath goes out.
Each breath is an opportunity to anchor yourself in the present. If the mind wanders gently escort the attention back to the breath. No single breath exists in the past or the future. Your breath occurs in the moment.
In the third step the field of awareness around the breathing is expanded. Now it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your body and facial expressions. It’s as if the whole body was breathing.
If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort or tension, feel free to bring your focus of attention right into the intensity by imagining that the breath could move into and around the sensations.
In this way, you are helping to experience the sensations, befriending them, rather than trying to change them in any way.
Each of the three steps touches on a core aspect of Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is a practice of focusing attention on our self and increasing awareness of our thoughts, feelings and body states.
During the breathing exercises you gently acknowledge whatever is happening for you in that moment. Whatever thoughts and feelings are bubbling up in your body or mind.
In doing so, you are gently reminding yourself that your current state of mind is not a solid ‘fact’, but is instead governed by interlinked thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and impulses to act. These can and do, ebb and flow, and you can become aware of them as they do.
The breath also serves as an anchor grounding us in the present moment. As you focus on the physical sensations of breathing you will notice your minds tendency to wonder. Each time it does you gently coax it back to the present and to your breath. In doing so you increase your ability to focus and stay in the moment.
Finally, as you open your awareness out, you open to life. In doing so you prepare for the next moment 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 it’s peace, dignity and completeness.
The 3 minute breathing space meditation is something you can easily learn and carry out whenever you want.
Some people like to use it several times a day. They find it a way to maintain a compassionate and mindful stance, whatever comes their way. They find it helps to dissolve negative thought patterns before they gain control over them. As was the case for my failed attempt at a presentation.
Even if you choose not to use it at regular times during the day you may find it useful in emergencies.
Or you may want to include it as one of your weekly or monthly meditative practices. I, for example, rotate my daily meditations. I usually do the 3 minute meditation and least once a week.
Getting in touch with your breathing is a lovely way to stay grounded and in touch with yourself. Regular practice will do wonders for your state of mind. And when stressful situations do arise, you’ll have a natural tool to help you stay calm.
Matt is a trained and licenced Mindfulness teacher and Stress and Anxiety Reduction Counsellor operating in and around the Peterborough area. After overcoming his own stress and anxiety he's found his purpose teaching others to do the same.
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