Breath is a great focus for meditation. It is always there wherever you are. You have some control over your breath but for the most part, it is involuntary.
Your breath is with you from the moment you are born until the moment you die. I have had the privilege to witness the first breath of a few new bubs. It’s a precious moment.
Likewise, I have witnessed the change in breathing and the last breath of a few dear ones…once again a marking moment, significant,final and never to be forgotten.
Your breath and your emotions
Your breath is like a barometer feeding you information about your emotional state.
Take a moment now to turn inwards and ask,
“What is my mood right now? Am I stressed, anxious, relaxed or feeling joy?"
Then turn your attention to your breath. Take a moment to notice it’s speed and its depth. If it’s fast and shallow you’re more likely to be a little anxious. If it is deeper and from the belly, the odds are that you’re in a more relaxed state. Try checking this, from the inside out.
1. Breathing for relaxation
If you are breathing for relaxation or focus, try to slow your breath down to somewhere between 9-12 breaths a minute and make sure you are breathing into the belly, and then breathing out for at least as long as you breathe in.
Some say if you listen to Baroque music your breath will settle into this rhythm. Breathing in this way can be soothing.
We often take shallow breaths when we are anxious and breathe in more than out. We can be so full of air that there is not much room to get more air in and it can feel difficult to breathe.
If you're in a state of panic, slower diaphragmatic breathing will often calm you. Pay mindful attention as you do this, noticing the rhythm of the breath, the movement of the breath etc. If you are super soothed and need to get motivated you might want to take a few faster breaths.
Try breathing along with the rhythm of this changing shape.
In a mindfulness practice, you notice the breath as it is without trying to change it in any way.
You pay attention with an even-handed, equanimous, accepting and non-judgmental attitude, as best you can, being as non-reactive as possible.
If your breath is a bit panicky, you surf it, with awareness, rather than controlling it through changing your breath.
As you practice bringing an even-handed awareness to your breath, not reacting to it, you willl often find that it seems to change. This teaches a way to approach the inevitable ups and downs of life in a way that can also be very helpful.
Integrating the two types of breathing.
Both these practices have their place. I sometimes use soothing breathing at the beginning of a mindfulness practice to help me settle and focus, sometimes for just a few minutes and sometimes longer.
I then settle into a more open mindfulness practice watching the flow of my inner life…noticing breath, or perhaps sounds, sensations or thoughts, paying attention to the moment, non-judgementally.
Becoming wise in your meditation practice.
It takes experience to develop the wisdom to choose the practice that is best for you.
So practice and try them on, give them time, luxuriate in them, get to know them and notice your experience as you go.
With time you'll notice what each practice offers you and will be more able to choose how personalise your practice
Interested? Would you like to learn a bit more?
There are many places you can dip your toe into learning meditation.
You can attend a retreat and practice with apps.
Our secular Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses offer a structured time-tested way to do this with group support,teacher feedback and a full 8-weeks to learn new skills and change old habits.
Our next course begins Oct 24. Hop on www.headrest.com.au for more info or to book in.