Breath awareness / How to breathe for mindfulness

If you make the decision to be mindful or switch on your conscious awareness, the next job in hand is to master breath control. It will take a little time, you may have to work at it a bit but you will get there. It wont take a lifetime just some practice. Conscious awareness of breathing is to follow it – to be aware of the in and out. It is not a chore, it is a skill. a skill you can pick up and strengthen. You will improve your life with it. Here is how to do it.

Becoming consciously aware of your breathing pattern/rhythm – you don’t have to slow it or alter it – just noticing the inhale, and then being with the exhale brings your focus to the process of breathing and not off on a journey of white water rafting your thoughts and emotions. It is the instant switch, the instant control mechanism, the uncomplicated now. You may get a few breathes followed before your mind starts to drift , that’s ok, when you realise you are not breathing in but thinking about household insurance or what’s for dinner or that twist in last night’s soap opera, then you can just come back to the breaths and take a time out from those meandering thoughts. As time moves on and you practice more conscious breathing you will be able to train your brain to focus better when you call on it to do so.

Breath awareness is also part of meditation but it can be done standing, walking, waiting for a bus, sitting on a train, cycling, hanging out washing, etc. It is not a dangerous process, it does not hypnotise you, you won’t steer the bicycle of the cycle track, or miss the bus, or drop the baby. It is just breathing, but mindfully – That’s aware, not drowsy.

In meditation we can use breath control to bring about calm, to lower blood pressure and stress, to slow the pace – relaxations is relaxation, and sleep is sleep but breath control is both tranquillity and dynamic life experience. Because some people only know on as active and off as unconscious, they find for a time that slowing down makes them sleepy – if you worry that conscious breathing will make you drop the baby then practice when your arms are free. You can skip it when you’re not preparing fugu for family and friends. You use it when you want it.

Practicing breathe control in meditation is great to train it too for use in non-meditation circumstances. Breath control is really mind control. We are not always looking to dismiss thoughts, but watch them arise and pass by without having to latch on and follow them all day. So breathing helps the mind stay focused and not follow the emotions and thoughts arising – follow your breathe not your thoughts.

a guided mindful meditation – Sit still or stand tall. Become aware of your breath, keep breathing as normal – just notice it – you may notice it in your nose, throat, chest or mouth. Just notice and pay attention to the reality that you are breathing in and out. Now focus on the inhale, feel it going in, notice the exhale, feel it going out. Stick with your natural rhythm don’t try to slow it, plenty of time for those exercises later. Now just experience your inhales and your exhales, you can become aware of the rising of your chest, or the flaring of your nostrils but keep following the in and out. If a thought crops up, let it just happen, don’t react, come back to the in and out. Feel the inhale, the drawing in of air to your lungs, experience the exhale as you release the breath. In, out, in, out. That old thought is long gone you are consciously breathing. This is how to control thoughts. The more you do this the better it gets. You can do it for a few seconds anytime you want to find the moment or escape the negative or disarm repetitive thoughts and you can do dedicated timed sessions. Five minutes before breakfast, five minutes at lunch. You may even do 20mins in a meditation. You will evolve and hone your practices into what suits you.

If you want to explore more meditations and pick up some simple tricks and tips to become more mindful in your daily life there is plenty of help in my new book – By time is everything revealed

About The Holistic Gardener

author of wellness books, columnist, keynote speaker.
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