When you first start learning about mindfulness or meditation of any kind you will hear a lot of keep going back to your breath.
It sounds like such a silly thing for someone to say, ‘keep breathing’ if we were not breathing then it’s too late to be learning anything new! However the breath gives us life, the first thing we do when we are born is breath in, the last thing we do before we die is breath out.
It is the very life of our bodies, which is why, when noticed it can be so powerful.
One of the first meditations you learn will be counting your breathing in your head.
I’m breathing in 2..3..4 …………………
I’m breathing out 2..3..4
Whilst your mind is focusing on repeating those few words it literally cannot think about anything else, therein lies the power.
Our minds have been trained to wonder. We dwell on the past, worry about the future, criticise ourselves constantly, worry about what other people are thinking about us, get anxious about other people’s behaviour. We have entire conversations with other people in our minds.
Now some of these thoughts are absolutely necessary, we need to think about stopping before crossing the road, or focus on what we are doing if we have a sharp knife in our hands, or any number of mundane things. What we don’t really need to do, is worry about what Mary down the road is thinking about your front garden, or what Bill at work thinks about your working practices.
Or we don’t want to believe those thoughts that tell us that we are useless, we have no friends, no-one would care if we just disappeared, that you are invisible, nothing, no-one.
If when your thoughts start running away with you and you have learned to ‘watch them’ but not engage with them, you can start a breathing exercise immediately. Where ever you are, you can take a deep breath in and say ‘I’m breathing in……. I’m breathing out. And you can continue saying that for as long as you like….. 2 mins, 5 mins, 20 mins. As soon as you start the body is immediately aware of the ‘fresh air’ flowing through it, your mind is totally focused on that statement and the action that goes with it. When you are ready to stop, you will find that your mind has moved on to something else, maybe some more present, like the weather, or where you are, or it could be a sense of freedom.
Try it next time you feel you are becoming overwhelmed with troubling thoughts. After all, it’s always available, its free and it doesn’t need to be charged up, found, or remembered.