Since my last post, I have been asked several times how to breathe. The brat in me always wants to say, “first in, then out.” But I know what they are asking me, and I had the same questions when I started. As simplistic as breathing is, it’s too critical for me to assume I’m doing it correctly. But the key is to just start.
No matter how well I breathe I can always breathe deeper and more effectively. It’s the same for breathing as it is for life itself- I am constantly learning how to do it better. But I started without judgment. Breathing is difficult for Americans because we want quick results and immediate gratification. Breathing is NOT about results, but about getting to know yourself.
The benefits of focused breathing are immeasurable. I do not claim to be an expert on breathing (and certainly not meditation), but I do know how it helps me, and I will share my methods here. The rest you can research for yourself. I want to start by saying that you alone are the highest authority for you-- just as I am for me.
Remembering why I am doing focused breathing makes it much easier. I focus breathe to start my day with my energy, drive, and vitality. I do it during my day to relieve stress. It is too easy for me to get into a work routine and forget to take breaks, so I will set a timer to remind me to stop and breathe.
In addition, If I notice my mind wandering during a project I will stop and do some focused breathing. If I notice I am breathing shallow breaths, I stop to do focused, deep breathing. I do it to end my day and forget about any bothersome issues. I sleep better after emptying my mind of endless chatter.
Some of my sets are 30 minutes of breathing and some breaks consist of simply taking three deep breaths. It all depends on what I notice and what I feel my needs are. As I said, I’m not a practitioner, so I don’t profess to be able to teach you all the techniques, but I have this done enough to present the basics to you.
The basics are to breathe deeply and notice each breath. Feel the air as you inhale through your nose. I picture the “good” of life entering my body as I inhale. I believe the main component of breathing is to completely and totally focus on the air as it enters and exits your body.
If you do this part correctly, your attention is on every detail of your process, and you cannot be bothered with the affairs of your day. It should take everything you have to notice and observe your breathing process.
A deep inhale is usually to a count of five. Hold the air inside for a bit-- maybe three counts-- and slowly and evenly exhale through your mouth or nose to the same count of five. I have also heard that inhaling deep to a count of three and exhaling to a count of six or seven offers physical benefits as well. You may just want to experiment and observe. Then you can draw your own conclusions.
What happens next is kind of what I call going down the rabbit hole. What I mean is that no matter you how deep into awareness of breathing you decide to go, you can always dive deeper. While I’m still less into the meditative side of breathing than most of my peers, I cannot deny a spiritual experience.
For me, it’s still about mechanical curiosity for me as I breathe. I mean, I have been breathing now for 60 years, but I never really thought about it. I certainly breathe without telling myself to. I’m sure I would notice if I stopped breathing, but I never paid much attention to my breathing. So I started by observing my breathing as if for the very first time.
I have started noticing every little detail while I am breathing. That’s what I call focused breathing. I pay attention to my posture. I notice how deep I breathe. I feel my chest expand a little and my stomach a lot more. I notice as my stomach and my chest come back down as I exhale.
A baby’s tummy will expand and contract as he breathes, but somewhere along the way, he learns it isn’t polite, and he feels self-conscious that his tummy expands, so he starts breathing shallowly with only the chest rising and falling. It was probably learned subconsciously, but he learns it. I wanted to discard the learned breathing of my youth and return to the natural breathing of my infancy.
My first breath of the session might be a deep one, but I probably won’t notice much about it. That’s why I choose to picture it as the breath of life-- clean, fresh air, and a source of health and happiness for me. The next time I inhale, I pay more attention to how I breathe that goodness into me-- the mechanics of it all. I notice how it feels coming into my nose.
I breathe out my mouth, but I could just as easily breathe out my nose. Either way, I pay attention to how I exhale the air. I feel my body as all this is happening.
I can now go even deeper into the rabbit hole. From the mechanics, I start to focus on my mind. I notice my thoughts without judgment or assessment. They are not good or bad. I remove all value from them and just accept that they are thoughts. I don’t resist my thoughts, but I don’t dwell on them either. They come and they go-- just as quickly as they appeared.
The goal for me is to not think about anything but being. Being in the moment. Accepting myself in the moment. Loving myself in the moment. I’ve started to observe my body and my mind from somewhere outside it. I learn more and more that my thoughts and my feelings are up to me. If I can observe them, I can change them.
Even deeper down the rabbit hole, I go. Thoughts create feelings which create actions which create results. I realize it is harder to observe my thoughts than it is to observe my feelings. So, I get quiet and I observe my feelings. I then ask myself what thoughts must I be having to create these feelings. If my feelings are undesirable to me, I know I need to change my thoughts.
I have not reached anything remotely resembling the bottom of this rabbit hole. If I have learned anything, it’s that the more I learn the more there is to learn. I love this journey and I hope you start (or dive deeper into) your journey.
You can always google breathing exercises, focused breathing, mindfulness breathing, or any variation that you wish. Find the videos or articles that resonate most with you and begin. If you begin, then you are doing it correctly.
If you have any questions, or if you want to work with me, just email me or click on the free case study. In any event, I wish you all the best in life.
To your wealth and success,