20 Breaths

Mindfulness is something I’ve discussed before, and although it sounds fancy and hipster and very new, it’s a concept that I think dates back many years, through people who pray or meditate or sit and listen to themselves or to nature.

The goal of mindfulness isn’t to make your brain blank or to disassociate from the world. The goal is to find your center in the middle of and apart from your thoughts and feelings (both of which aren’t always reliable).

How do you do this?

Get in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Then take twenty deep, slow breaths, focusing on the inhale and the exhale. Notice how your breath moves through your nostrils and out across your tongue and past your lips. Follow it as it goes in and out. In and out (that’s what she said?).

This is your center. Your anchor. As you breathe, if you’re like me, you’ll notice instantly your brain meandering in a dozen different directions. It might wonder what you will eat for dinner or bring up a painful memory or criticize you or remember something joyful or start thinking that you need to do your taxes. Your job is to acknowledge the thought, and then notice how it makes you feel. Where is there tension or expansion in your body? Then, let both of them go. Don’t analyze the thoughts and the feelings. Notice them, observe them for a moment, and then let them move through you and bring your concentration back to your breath.

That’s it. That’s all. Twenty deep breaths and only gentle concentration. No shame. No judgement. What the practice does is teach you that you don’t have to indulge every thought or feeling that comes along. If I am in the middle of a breath and feel a pang of anxiety and an anxious or seemingly urgent thought flies into my head, I realize I can let it go a breath or two later, and the thought and the feeling both leave. They aren’t permanent, and they don’t control who I am. They are not my center, just informers. Important informers, but not masters or drivers or captains.

Challenge!: Try this practice every day this week and note if it causes any changes for you, whether it be a shift in perspective, a realization, or a bit of relaxation. Also notice if it increases stress or tension or negative patterns. Not all practices are best for all individuals. It’s just another technique to try as you find what suits you and what doesn’t.

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