7 Ways to Relieve Stress, Anxiety, and Fear Part 2 – Conscious Breathing and Meditation. Missed the beginning of this series? Catch up on Part 1!
We all breathe unconsciously, yet there is great power when we use the breath consciously. When we are calm, we breathe more deeply and slowly than we do when we are stressed. As we feel the pressures of life, we tend to shorten and even hold our breath altogether when we are startled or feel threatened.
The heart beat follows the breath. As we experience stress in our world, our unconscious breath quickens and becomes shallower. Our heartbeat follows suit, speeding up and even becoming more erratic than regular. Then we feel this as increased chaos and discomfort in the body and we wonder, what happened? When we bring consciousness to our breathing, we can calm ourselves deeply and bring the heartbeat back into its normal calmer rhythm.
Here is a meditation on the breath to help bring peace into your life when you feel that tension and chaos have taken hold of you. You have a choice in how you respond to the stresses and strains that can erupt in your life. Here is one way to calm yourself and live more from a place of choosing to respond, rather than reacting to events:
Sit comfortably. Focus your attention on your breath. Breathe deeply, slowly, and evenly. Bring the air deep into the base of your lungs and exhale fully before your next deep and measured conscious breath. Repeat, keeping your inhale and exhale slow and even.
Continue breathing and bring your attention to your heartbeat. Feel your heart pulsing throughout your body or place your finger over the pulse point on your wrist and feel it there. As you notice the rhythm of your heart, begin breathing with the rhythm of your heartbeat. Inhale to a count of 4 of your heart beats. Hold the breath to a count of 4 of your heart beats. Exhale to a count of 4 heart beats. Hold the breath out to a count of 4 heart beats. Then inhale again to a count of 4 and continue breathing with the rhythm of the heart. Inhale for 4, hold the breath in for 4, exhale for 4, hold the breath out for 4 beats, and continue for 3 to 11 minutes.
You may notice that the mind creates thoughts as you do this practice. Let the thoughts be there. Watch them if they come, but do your best to not engage with them. If you find that your attention wanders off with a thought that arises, just notice that you are following that thought and remember to come back to the breath and the heartbeat. Meditation is called ‘a practice’ because it is just that. Practice. It doesn’t matter how many times you find yourself losing focus on the breath and the heartbeat and instead, follow a thought. What matters is how many times you come back to the breath and the heartbeat. This is the work and the essence of meditation. Just continue with your focus on your breath and your heartbeat the best you can. The practice is in this moment is exactly the way it is. Be content. Breathe and feel your heartbeat.
Please take this tool of conscious breathing with you. Put it into practice the best you can.
This meditation practice will help you remain steady and calm amidst the unpredictable life we experience. After a while, you might find that you cannot imagine how you managed your life before you incorporated the tool of conscious breathing into it.
Stay Tuned for Part 3 of this series next week!