Breathing Space

March 20, 2011

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Photo: Adam Farber
I have been doing a 4 week long online mindfulness course. I would recommend this course for anyone who is looking for a simple way to bring more mindfulness into your everyday life. The course can be found here:  
The course combines elements of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). These techniques have been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Mindfulness may mean many things to different people. I view mindfulness as a mind-body technique that allows us to increase awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. When we increase awareness of the present moment, we are able to relax our constant judgments and find more pleasure in “what is.”
Keep checking back for posts on more mindfulness-based techniques!
Below is a short and simple mindfulness practice that I want to share with readers. It is taken directly from the mindfulness course I mentioned above. I like this exercise because it can be done anywhere and at any time. Although it is called the “3 minute breathing space” it can be done in even less time if need be!

3 Minute Breathing Space

1) Acknowledging
 Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately adopting a dignified posture. Then ask: ‘What’s going on with me at this moment? What thoughts, feelings and body sensations am I experiencing right now?
You could put your inner experience into words. For example, say in your mind, ‘A feeling of anger is arising’ or ‘self-critical thoughts are here’ or ‘my stomach is clenched and tense.’

2) Gathering

Gently bring your full attention to the breathing. Experience fully each in-breath and each out-breath as they follow one after the other.  It may help to note at the back of your mind ‘breathing in…breathing out’, or to count the breaths. Let the breath function as an anchor to bring you into the present and to help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

3) Expanding

Expand your awareness around the breathing to the whole body, and the space it takes up, as if your whole body is breathing. Especially take the breath to any discomfort, tension or resistance you experience, ‘breathing in’ to the sensations.  While breathing out, allow a sense of softening, opening, letting go. You can also say to yourself ‘It’s ok to feel whatever I’m feeling.’ Include a sense of the space around you too. Hold everything in awareness. As best you can, bring this expanded awareness into the next moments of your day.

You might like to start using the three-minute breathing space in moments of stress, when you are troubled in thoughts or feelings. You can use it to step out of automatic pilot; to reconnect with the present moment and your own inner wisdom.

My note: This exercise also works very well when imagery is added to the first step. For example, in step one you might draw what the feeling or sensation looks like. A knot in the stomach that feels angry might be depicted by a red tangled-up mass of lines. Often, creating an image of the feelings and sensations helps us to become more aware of that specific state.

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