Take a breath

Sometimes, we find ourselves chewing over things from our past. Or perhaps we catch ourselves worrying about something coming up in our day, or things we need to do at the weekend. Sometimes, we are so caught up in ruminating about the past and getting anxious about the future that we aren’t even aware that we are doing it. At times like this, it is very easy for the days to slip by, and we wonder where the hours went. They passed by without us even noticing.

When we spend time in our minds in the past or the future, it becomes very difficult to notice what is happening now. And if you don’t notice what is happening now, right now, all around you and within you, is that the life you want to lead?

Here is a small exercise to help you start to focus on what is going on now, to bring your mind into present awareness. Once the exercise is finished, you might notice things feel a little different, if only for a few seconds. The more often you do the exercise, the longer that feeling will last. And the exercise is easy to learn. There’s a video below the instructions if you want to see how an exercise like this could help you, or others around you.

But this isn’t a theoretical exercise. Read the instructions below, and then do it. It should only take 2 minutes.

  • Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed (or averted to the floor if that feels strange for you) and your back reasonably straight
  • Bring your attention to your breathing
  • Notice the sensations in your abdomen as you breathe in and out
  • Thoughts will come into your mind, and that’s ok, because that’s just what the human mind does. Simply notice the thoughts, then bring your attention back to your breathing
  • You might notice sounds, physical feelings, and emotions, and again, just bring your attention back to your breathing
  • You don’t have to follow those thoughts or feelings, don’t judge yourself for having them, or analyse them in any way. It’s ok for the thoughts to be there. Just notice those thoughts, and let them drift on by, bringing your attention back to your breathing
  • Whenever you notice your attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in thoughts and feelings, simply note that your attention has drifted, and then gently bring the attention back to your breathing.

It’s ok and natural for thoughts to enter into your awareness, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

Here’s a really cool example of how this simple breathing exercise has been used with mainstream classes in primary school. Just regular kids, moving from one class activity to another, and mindful breathing helps them get their focus back to what needs to happen now. Leo, towards the end of the clip, sums it up nicely (it isn’t long at 1.46 mins).

Coaching can help you to understand how thoughts and feelings can trap us in the past or future, and can affect how you live life now. Let me know if I can help.

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