Sunday, July 5, 2015


There is a saying---some say it is a Buddhist proverb---that states, ‘Your breathing is your greatest friend. Return to it in all your troubles and you will find comfort and guidance.’ How true that is.

What happens when you are stressed? Well, a number of things. Among them, your heart rate increases, and so does your breathing which ordinarily becomes more shallow as well.

Here is something the Eastern masters have taught for centuries that can help you to deal effectively with stress. At the first sign of your becoming stressed, become aware of your breathing. Do not attempt to change it. Do not attempt to slow it down or deepen it. Just be aware of your breathing where your breath is most prominently felt (eg nostril, mouth, throat). Be aware of the warmth or slowness of your breath. Be aware of its rate and frequency. Be awareness of its shallowness. Again, do not attempt to change any of these things. Simply be aware, and stay aware, of your breathing for 5, 10 or 15 minutes---that is, for as long as it takes for your breathing to slow down as well as deepen.

That’s right. Stay aware of your breathing until it slows down and deepens of its own accord. It’s amazing---well, it’s not so amazing really---that your awareness of your breathing will result in your breathing slowing down and deepening. Some readers may find this idea counter-intuitive, but it’s not. Awareness is non-resistance. Awareness is non-judgmental self-observation. Awareness is letting be …. and letting go. And awareness effects positive changes in your body and mind.

Listen to these words of wisdom from the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh (pictured):

'Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.'

Now, if at any point in time during your awareness of your breathing you become mentally or emotionally distracted by some troubling thought, feeling, idea, memory or sensation, gently---note that word ‘gently’---bring your awareness back to your breathing.

One more thing. Don’t forget to breathe. Some people, when they become consciously aware of their breathing, forget to breathe. Watch that. It is self-correcting---a good thing it is---but it’s still better to avoid it.

Yes, conscious awareness of your breathing will bring you relaxation and comfort. Try it.

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