Just breathe

Just breathe. Right now. Become aware of the fact that you are breathing. If you’re like most people, busy, multi-tasking, distracted and stressed, your breath is probably shallow, and short. Without adding a lot of effort, simply increase your awareness, and begin to put a little more attention on this usually unconscious process. Let your breath begin to relax, allowing it to become deeper and longer.

Breathe in and out through your nose. Notice that you have an inhalation and an exhalation. Many of us have the tendency to do a short inhale and a longer exhale. Quietly notice if that’s what you’re doing. Very gently, make them even.

Lengthen the breath, so that you are inhaling for a slow count of 4 and exhaling for a slow count of 4. Let your breath flow freely from one to the other. Let yourself experience the balance and flow.

Become aware of the points when your lungs are at their fullest, and when they are emptiest. Feel the cyclical nature of the breath. Appreciate that this cycle continues 24 hours a day, every moment of your life, without your having to do anything at all, supporting you, Allow your breath to help you take in what you need, and release what you don’t need. Let yourself relax into that deep knowledge.

Continue to let your breath slow, deepen, and relax, as you feel each inhalation support, brighten and activate your body. Feel yourself exhale, trusting that you are letting go of anything you no longer need. Feel gratitude for this miracle.

Notice when your mind wanders. When that happens, and you become aware of it, remind yourself that you are not doing anything wrong; that it is the nature of attention to wander. Simply come back to your breath. See if you can keep your entire focus on your breath for a count of ten complete inhales and exhales. When you wander, simply come back again to the process.

There. Congratulations! You’ve done your meditation for the day, reset your nervous system out of stress mode, lowered your blood pressure, and released some tension from your muscles. It cost you nothing but your attention and a few minutes of your time, and the benefits will support you for hours. Isn’t breathing wonderful?

This article was published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.

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