Breath Awareness as a Healing Tool

Breath Awareness as a healing tool

Breath Awareness as a Healing Tool

Breathing is one of the unconscious processes by which we take oxygen and vital energy into our body. Are you aware of this process fully? Do you know the importance of proper breathing? Try to concentrate on this action only – taking oxygen in and letting it out. You will feel much more than just breathing. You will feel your body and everything that is in contact with it. That is how you come to the phase of body awareness.

Meditation makes it possible to recognize emotional influences on breathing and provides a strategy for relieving underlying pain. In carrying out this inner work, however, you need to resist the impulse to control your breath and change it. Acceptance is the key to working with the emotional dimensions of breathing. In order to deepen your capacity to witness the breath, you must accept it as it is. It is this nonjudgmental openness that transforms breath awareness into an instrument of self-understanding and healing.

Accepting disturbances in your breathing imply actively accepting the sources of stress, pain, and negative emotion in your life.

During meditation, emotional reactions register in the breath in subtle ways. They can speed your breath or slow it down, alter its depth, change its quality, or manifest as minor interruptions in its flow. Becoming conscious of your breath allows you to witness these changes, recognize their importance, and slowly quiet them. The process of accepting disturbances in your breathing implies actively accepting the sources of stress, pain, and negative emotion in your life.

The process of opening to emotional experience and its sources lends depth to the meditation process. In meditation, we do not simply observe thoughts and feelings passing through us like ghostly images, pushed away by a shift in attention. The substance and content of worldly life are grounded in us. Events that spawn our reactions—pain, stress, and emotionally charged incidents—enter into the stream of inner life as actual presences. Anger is anger. Sorrow is sorrow. Changes in breathing arising from these emotions are real as well.

Emotional threads in your life are subtly entwined with your breathing. Anger, frustration, anxiety, jealousy, sadness, and depression transform your breath. These transformations are not simply reactions—they become part of your emotional experience, part of your stress and pain. They often occur even before you are aware of the source of your discomfort.

In meditation, however, the subtle disturbances and imbalances we experience in breathing are simply allowed to be. They pass through us precisely because we witness them and give them room within us. When distortions in breathing are witnessed in this way, deeper forces of breathing are awakened and breathing acts as a healing power, gradually returning to its natural flow.

The process outlined above can be used with physical pain as well. Suppose you have a horrible headache and wish you could make it disappear. No doubt your pain, combined with your reaction to it, is affecting your breathing. Perhaps your abdominal muscles have tightened, and, as a result, your breaths have become shallow; or maybe you have artificially slowed your breathing by overcontrolling it.

Turn toward your headache as you meditate, open to its presence, and you will discover that breath awareness is a tool that reveals new ways of being. It generates a willingness to coexist with your headache, to approach it with a fundamental optimism. It allows you to soften the way in which you unintentionally grip your discomfort, to unwrap the stranglehold you have on your headache, and slowly let the pain move through.

Using this approach, you can let breath awareness return breathing to its natural rhythm. You’ll recover involuntary patterns of breathing, minus the scuffle. And once this has happened, headache or no, you can find rest within yourself.

You will soon find that most of the snakes that bother your breathing are not in the desert. They wait on pathways in your mind. They may very well rattle your breathing, sometimes before you’re fully aware of their presence, but they are not as dangerous as you might fear. By becoming conscious of your breathing, your unconscious reactions can soften. You may be left with some realistic challenges, but fewer ghosts and shadows. Your breath is free to serve, not only the needs of your body but those of your mind and spirit as well.

Becoming Present through the breath

Proper breathing can help you release stress and be more relaxed. It will also bring you peace and frees you of overthinking. From the moment your start your existence on this planet, to the moment when you leave it, you breathe. It is impossible to live without breathing. So, if this is a so important activity, why do we neglect it so much?

Many people would say that there is no need to control the breathing, or that it is just a loss of time. There are more important things to do, right? Well, this is not quite true. There is a great possibility that your mind will be in chaos if you tend to devote to everything but yourself.

A quiet mind is what most of the people don’t have. We are obsessed with analyzing and thinking about the past, or the future. What we actually need is to think in the context of now.

Take a few moments and just breathe. Feel your nostrils, the lungs, feel your body becoming full and then release it. That’s right, become aware of your body at this moment.

You know how people say to take a deep breath after a really stressful situation? Whether you want to cry or to yell, if you breathe properly it will reduce the tension. But, every once in a while – take a deep and slow breath. We usually have a sort of superficial breathing, without swelling into it. By doing this, you will become present – your mind will be in peace. Every harmful eventual emotional or mental pattern can be broken this way. If you have a solution to an easier, more peaceful life, why wouldn’t you accept it?

Awareness through the body can be achieved by breathing the right way, that is sure. You are becoming present through the breath. Just take a break, it will help you a lot. Handling everyday situations will be much easier after some time of applying this technique.

Adjusting Your Breathing

Recline comfortably on your back on a firm flat surface. Support your neck and head with a thin cushion and observe the flow of your breathing, sensing each exhalation and inhalation and making smooth transitions from breath to breath. Continue for a number of minutes, allowing your body to rest.

Now begin to shape your breathing in the following way: If your breathing is shallow, gently deepen it by inviting it into your belly. To do this, visualize the breath stream flowing down your body and increase the expansion of the abdomen with each breath. Soften muscle tensions in the jaw, chest, abdomen and glutes, that restrict your breathing. Look especially for tension in the abdomen or in the muscles between the ribs.

If your breaths are of unequal lengths, begin to count 1, 2, 3 as you inhale and 1, 2, 3 as you exhale. This will relax your nervous system. Then continue deepening it by counting until 4 counts. Quiet the breath. Let it flow silently. Weave each breath into the next, smoothing out pauses in your breath that interrupt its unbroken flow.

Finally, relax your mental effort and observe the wave motion of your breath. Observe your breathing as a relaxed witness. Listen to it and enjoy just being. Let go everything else.
Gift moments of peace to yourself!

irana Fouroulis

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