Friday, February 19, 2021

Breathing Practice 4 Heart Focus


Just you, your breath, and the beat of your heart.

Since the month of February is heart month, it’s the perfect time to add the beat of our hearts to our breathing practice. I think of this technique as heart focus. It’s one of my favorite breathing techniques and I know it will become one of yours. Our heartbeats will take us deeper into our breathing practice, and our minds will become intensely focused on the beat so there’s no room for other thoughts or distractions. Essentially, it’s heartbeat bliss. 

  • Sit and relax in your favorite quiet place. Some of you may have been lying down previously, but it’s easier to hear and feel the full effect of your heartbeat while sitting. Rest your hands palm up in your lap or lightly on your knees. Relax your jaw and allow soft eyes.
  • Begin to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. With each breath slow the inhale and the exhale down a bit until you reach a comfortable rhythm (lesson 1). This is your time so allow your mind to relax. Let your cares and thoughts float away by coming back home to your breath and how it feels to breathe.
  • When you are ready add deeper breaths slowly. Be aware of how you feel as your deeper breaths relax your lungs (lesson 2).
  • On your next inhalation, pause (lesson 3) and suspend breathing for 4 seconds before slowly exhaling and pausing for 4 seconds. Allow each breath to flow slowly into the next. Reminder - if you are not breathing slow and deep enough you may find yourself lightheaded.
  • Once you reach a comfortable rhythm, listen for your heartbeat whenever you pause. There's no need to over think this, allow your heartbeat to rise above the noise in your head. Please note that hearing and feeling your heartbeat does not necessarily happen right away. It takes practice as with any breathing exercise. But once you become aware of heart focus, it’s always there for you with every beat of your heart.
  • Enjoy this exercise for 15 minutes or longer each morning, throughout your day as often as you would like, and before you drift off to sleep. Adding more time will help achieve a successful breathing practice.

When you are finished, sit for a few minutes bringing your breath back to your natural rhythm. Don’t forget to whisper to yourself thank you - insert your name. After all, this time has been your gift to you.

Let heart focus be an easy exercise. As you focus on your breathing and heartbeat you may even feel a slight sway to your upper body. Allow it to move and breath, ebb and flow with every beat. Allow mindfulness to flow in and out, in and out, to the rhythm of each breath, each heartbeat.

Continue with this heart focus exercise and go back and review previous lessons until next time.

Stay safe, be well,
Michelle
Heartbeat graphic courtesy of Aliaina Rakes

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Breathing Practice 3 Pause


"It’s not so much knowing when to speak, but when to pause."
Jack Benny

We’ll continue to build our breathing practice this week by hitting the pause button. There are times in our lives when we wish we had a pause button. Now, we will create one in this simple breathing exercise. By controlling breathing with a pause, we are creating a gap. In this gap we are creating space. We suspend the breath and are in control of one thing - this space, this moment.

  • Sit or lie down in your favorite quiet place with your hands in your lap or on your stomach. If you've been lying down, you may want to try sitting and vice versa. Relax your jaw and allow soft eyes.
  • Now simply begin to breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. With each breath slow the inhale and the exhale down until you reach a comfortable rhythm. Remember this is your time so allow your mind to relax. Let your cares and thoughts float away by coming back home to your breath and how it feels to breathe.
  • Begin welcoming deeper breaths slowly. Be aware of how you feel as your deeper breaths relax and expand your lungs.
  • After your next inhalation, hit pause and suspend breathing for 4 seconds before slowly exhaling. Experiment with hitting pause after you exhale. If this is going well, try hitting pause after the inhalation and exhalation. Become aware of which breathing pattern you are most comfortable as you bring conscious thought to your breath patterns.
  • Continue the rest of the exercise with the most comfortable pause pattern. There should be no gasping for air as each inhalation-pause-exhalation-pause flows into the next. If you are not breathing slow and deep enough (a common occurrence for all us shallow breathers) you may find yourself lightheaded, so breathe s-l-o-w-l-y. This is not a race!
  • Do this exercise for 15 minutes or longer each morning, throughout your day as often as you would like, and as you drift off to sleep. Adding more time will help achieve a successful breathing pattern over time.

When you are finished, whisper to yourself thank you - insert your name. We can go for days never hearing a thank you or even our name. Simple positive affirmations help acknowledge what it is we’re doing and go a long way in achieving the cornerstones of self-care. These breathing exercises hit pause and give you this moment which is a gift to you from you.

Again, let this be easy. Concentrate on your body and the ebb and flow of your precious breath as it moves in, pauses, moves out, pauses, and creates space. Consider each pause as you would a gap between thoughts. With each breath allow peace and mindfulness to flow.

Next time we’ll continue to build our awareness with each loving breath we take.

Stay safe, take care,
Michelle

Pause button courtesy of Holly Ireland

Friday, January 22, 2021

Breathing Practice 2 Awareness




"Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Last week we began our year of mindfulness with a simple breathing lesson to get used to considering our breath. This week we’ll take it a bit further.

  • As with Breathing Practice 1, find a comfortable space to sit or lie down. This time make sure it’s a quiet space. In the morning I prefer a bright room, and at night I prefer a dimmer setting or even a dark room. It’s up to you. This is your time.
  • If you are sitting, rest your hands on your lap, or on your stomach if you are lying down.
  • Again, tuck your chin slightly, relax your jaw, and allow your eyelids to lightly close (soft eyes).
  • Breathe, and welcome the natural flow of your breath allowing your mind to relax. If a thought flows by, allow it to do just that, flow by and come back to your breath.
  • This week we will add conscience thought. Begin to welcome deeper breaths slowly. Then concentrate on breathing and what it feels like as it moves in and out. Feel the sensation of breathing. Is it warm or cold? If cold, notice if and when it warms. Is it a calm breeze or a wild storm? If a wild storm, notice if and when it calms. Is it loose or tight? If tight, notice if and when it loosens up. Also, how do you feel when breathing deeper? With this exercise you are shifting attention to your body and becoming more aware. Through awareness we change.
  • Do this exercise for 10 minutes or longer each morning, throughout your day as often as you would like, and as you drift off to sleep.

Again, let this be easy. Concentrate on your body and the ebb and flow of your precious breath. This is the beginning of awareness. This is the door that opens mindfulness. Welcome home!

Next time we’ll take awareness a step further.

Stay safe. Take care,
Michelle
Welcome? photo courtesy of Jimmy_Joe

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Breathing Practice 1 Just Breathe



It sounds so easy to simply take a breath, but most of us don’t breathe fully, and thus don’t receive the full benefits of what taking-in a little more oxygen can do. Focused breathing is how we begin to be mindful. It guides us to being fully present in the moment.

So, let’s begin the year of mindfulness with a simple breathing exercise to get you used to considering your breath.
  • Sit with a relaxed posture in a chair or on a mat on the floor. Just be as comfortable as you would like to be. You can even lie down.
  • If you are sitting, rest your hands on your lap, or on your stomach if you are lying down.
  • Tuck your chin slightly and relax your jaw.
  • Allow your eyelids to lightly close (soft eyes).
  • Now, breathe in slowly through your nose, and out through your mouth.
  • Tune into the natural flow of your breath and allow your mind to relax.
  • If a thought flows by, allow it to do just that then come back to your breath.
  • Do this for 10 minutes or longer each morning, throughout your day as often as you would like, and as you drift off to sleep.
Let this exercise be easy. Simply breathe.

Next week, we’ll add more focus to our breathing. Until then just breathe.

Stay safe and take care,
Michelle

Unable to find credit for just breathe graphics 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Finding Mindfulness in 2021



It was good, it was bad, it was ugly, and now it’s over. While January may not feel any different from December, a new year gives rise to the possibilities of the year ahead. Like so many of you, I’ve felt the pull of the ups and downs of this last year more than any other time in my life on global, national, and personal fronts, but I am driven by the vision of a better life for all of us as we move forward in 2021.

Since 2005 I've selected a personal intention word/theme each year. 2020s word was possibilities. I began each day with the intention to see the possibilities in the day ahead. It was an interesting word for me considering what possibilities I had contemplated at the beginning of the year and all the turmoil that erupted just a few months later. But it served me well and was a positive force as I considered the possibilities day after day. Some days it held me up, other days it pulled me forward, but possibilities always guided me to a better place. I know that possibilities will continue to be a part of me, as all my other word themes over the years have been. So, with gratitude I now let possibilities make way for my new word - mindful. Just what is mindful or mindfulness, let’s just say it’s a way of being present in thought and action. It’s awareness on steroids!

Last year I had a number of people ask me how to be mindful. That’s not an easy answer. Being mindful becomes a way of thinking, a way of being, and it continually evolves and takes shape. It comes, it goes, and I know I am a better person if I continue to bring awareness to it.

In the coming weeks I will begin shedding light on mindfulness. We’ll wake up our brains, give them focus, bring them peace, and who knows where that will lead us all. While 2020 won’t be a year easily forgotten, we can now move on with gratitude and hope into a mindful 2021.

Stay safe, be well,
Michelle

Mind full v. mindful graphic courtesy of Heidi Forbes Ă–ste