"Smile, breathe and go slowly." ~Thích Nhất Hạnh
Breathing is our connection to Life!
Even Science is supporting the wonders of the breath. The FDA has approved breath-training as a recognized treatment for hypertension, and there are thousands of research reports stating that conscious breathing reduces the negative effects of stress, relieves anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue, helps manage fear, phobias, shock and grief, improves concentration, and increases one’s sense of wellbeing.
Many of other spiritual leaders teach conscious breathing as a way to transform ourselves; helping us become more present and collect ourselves so that we don’t act or react habitually. Instead we can be fully present, with a fresh mind and open attitude, in any moment.
I have personally experienced this and witnessed countless examples of the ways ‘breath awareness’ can change a moment, a day, and even a life.
You can practice Three Deep Conscious Breaths anywhere, anytime, and as often as you wish. However, when you are just starting out it can be helpful to follow these few simple steps to enhance the effectiveness of your practice:
1. Stop whatever activity you are involved in so you can give your full attention to the breath. (Over time you will be able to consciously breathe in any moment – while you are walking, eating, talking, listening, working etc., but in the beginning it’s good to stop what you’re doing so you can concentrate more easily.)
2. Stand with your weight distributed evenly on each foot or if possible you can sit in a chair or on the ground with your back relaxed but straight.
3. When you are new to the practice, and if you are in a safe environment, you may close your eyes so your attention is on the breath and not on outside activities and scenery. However, eventually, it is good to do this practice with your eyes open, aware of your environment. This way, you learn to connect to your breath as you are moving regularly from moment to moment, engaged in the world around you.
4. Relax and take a deep, slow breath through your nose, then breathe out again through your nose. Allow your mind to follow your breath in and back out of your body. You can focus on the tip of the nose where the breath enters and leaves or you can mentally follow the breath on its complete path in to and back out of the body.
5. After you have completely exhaled, allow another natural breath to flow in. Don’t pull or suck the breath in, it will come to you naturally. Once you have a full breath in, exhale again with out forcing or pushing the breath out. Allow all of the breath to empty from your lungs with out jumping ahead to the next inhale. Simply rest your mind on the breath and feel its affects; observing and sensing. Stay relaxed and allow your awareness of the breath to be soft, not heavy with concentration.
6. Each inhalation and exhalation is one cycle. Do three cycles and allow your mind to rest fully on the breath. You will notice that your mind wanders, sometimes even after the first breath. When you notice that the mind has drifted off to your to-do-list, dissecting a past conversation, or balancing your checkbook just acknowledge that you’ve been distracted and gently guide your mind back to your breath. The attitude in which you guide yourself back to the breath is KEY. So when you find yourself tripping out, just be humored, and with the warmth you’d offer your best friend, guide your mind back to the flow of your next breath. (We tend to go where we feel welcomed, to relax and expand more when we are not bullied.)
7. After getting the hang of paying attention to three conscious breaths bring the practice into your every day life as often as you can. (On the run, you will learn to skip numbers 1-3 above and jump right to 4-6.) Use this three breath pause through out your day in any moment, when you are walking to your office, eating lunch, in a conversation with a friend, working on your computer, waiting on a line, stuck in traffic, when ever. You will find this practice transforming your day. And, eventually, you will find the pause more accessible to you in those harder moments, like when you’ve just been insulted, or your child or parent is pushing your buttons, or anytime you feel your anger or irritation building.