Over the last couple of weeks, an unexpected and amazing thing happened as I made a commitment to spend ten minutes every day focused entirely on breathing. And perhaps you are crossing paths with these words because it’s a message for where you are in your life right now, too.
Here’s what I’ve been doing, and I challenge you to try it this week too. I set a timer on my phone for ten minutes. I close out all distractions, place my hand on my tummy so I can feel it rise and fall with each inhale and exhale, and focus my mind only on the sensations I feel as the air travels through my mouth to my diaphragm and back out again. That’s it. Pretty simple. My mind wanders a bit and I have to refocus. Suddenly, I remember calls I need to make and the mozzarella cheese I keep forgetting to pick up at the store. But I gently bring my thoughts back to the sensations, the rise and fall of my tummy, and how rejuvenating it feels to really breathe.
And as I have done this for two weeks, something profound has happened. I’ve gotten clarity on the vision I’ve been pondering for a long time about this next season of my life and business. I wasn’t trying to get clarity. I was just trying to breathe better, meditate, and connect with God, with no particular agenda in mind. And as I did that, a beautiful agenda showed up. Racking your brain to identify goals, next steps, purpose is an uphill climb. But in a relaxed state, free from thinking, it seems suddenly the space is created for fresh, new insights to emerge.
If you’re like most people, you take shallow breaths – all day long. In fact, you might be doing it right now. So go ahead, stop for a few moments and take a deep breath. Place your hand on your tummy and focus your sense on simply feeling the sensation of your breath moving through your body. Let your tummy rise while your chest remains still, just the way a baby breathes. A baby breathes that way because it is natural. It was the way we were created to breathe.
Breath is life, and when we feel stressed or stuck or anxious, a natural physiological response is to cut off the flow of breath. So we take short breaths or shallow breaths into the chest, but not deep into the diaphragm. But when you breathe slowly and deeply, that flow returns. Your heart rate slows down. Your shoulders relax. Your thoughts refocus.
It is these moments that you can get centered again. It is pretty amazing that something so simple and quick can shift your thoughts, your mood and even your reactions in a profound way. If you feel particularly anxious or stressed, try this for a little rejuvenation and clarity:
- Sit straight up or lie comfortably on your back.
- Breathe through your mouth as much air as you can take in, then suck in just one more bit of air.
- Hold for three seconds.
- Push all of the air out with your mouth.
- Repeat at least ten, but not more than 20 times.
My challenge to you:
Breathe intentionally every day this week. Set a reminder on your phone.
What time of day could you block out ten minutes to slow down and simply focus on deep breathing? What clarity would you love to get in the next few weeks that stress, overload or anxiety seem to be blocking?