Mindbody: Being Present; Navigating the Internal Landscape

In the last blog, we explored the basic notion of mindbody. The mind and body aren’t separate entities as we have been led to believe all these years.  So now what?  In order to bring this understanding into a place of beneficial action and healing, we need to learn how to listen and look inward.  For some of us this practice is as familiar as a dear old friend. Many of us, though, have little to no experience with this practice and need some guidance.

Having the ability to get centered in ones mindbody is a game changer.  It enables you to find yourself, even in turbulent circumstances. Getting centered and tuning inwards cultivates a more thoughtful and less reactive relationship with yourself and the rest of the world.  This is not to imply that having this practice automatically enlightens you…but it is a foundational step in that direction!  Remember, we are all in process all the time, and if we shift the way in which we relate to ourselves we are re-directing the path of our process.  In this way, learning how to be present in yourself is extremely liberating and empowering. But where to begin?  With a fundamental action of life--the breath.

Mindful Breathing; Internal Compass and Lantern

 “Blessed are they who are intimate with their breath, for they shall receive the ‘I can’ of the Universe.”

~The Beatitudes (as translated from Aramaic Bible)

“For breath is life, so if you breathe well you will live long on earth.”

~Sanskrit proverb

 “As for the proper inner breath, it is called the Embryonic Breath.  Since it is naturally inside you, you do not have to seek outside for it.”

~Master Great Nothing of Sung-Shan (in the Taoist canon on Breathing)

“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then there’s another way; a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.”

~Rumi

The Breath is a powerful internal force that we often take for granted.  Breathing is this epic ebb and flow that is the very substance of life. Yet, most of the time, we breath without being aware that it is even happening. It’s just been given over to the automatic and subconscious management of self. When we turn our attention to the breath, however, a new world of self-discovery and awareness is available. It is through this new awareness that we can begin to genuinely connect with, listen to and heal ourselves.

Let’s give it a try!  I find that, for beginners especially, it can be easiest to try this laying down on your back.  If you are at ease in a cross-legged seat, then give that a try instead.  Read the sequence below and then put it into action. 

  • Tune into your breathing and see what you find.  Is it fast? Slow? Wheezy or restricted?  Notice how your belly lifts with your inhale and falls with your exhale. Stay with this natural breath cycle for a few ins and outs, without attempting to control or manipulate, just observing.
  • Take several clearing breaths, in deeply through your nose and out audibly through your mouth. You can even let your lips flutter together (like a horse) on your exhale if that feels good.
  • Shift breathing in through your nose and out through your nose.  Do this for three to five full breath cycles in and out.
  • Turn your attention, with your breath, into your body. Visualize the breath as a current sweeping through yourself.  On your inhale it naturally flows into areas that feel clogged or restricted, and with your exhale it clears out the stagnation.  Do this mindful act of breathing into the spaces of the body that feel in need of clearing, and then out again.  You can even see your breath as being a certain color or a light force, if that helps. 
  • Keep with this mindful connected breathing for as long as it takes for you to feel those areas begin to soften and relax. Finish the exercise by allowing your breath to return to its’ natural cycle you began with, feeling the rise and fall of your belly.

Now, how do you feel?  Most likely you are feeling more centered, clear headed and relaxed. You may have already learned something about yourself. When first starting this exercise, it can be difficult to maintain focus.  That is completely natural!  Just like anything in life, practice is key. If you found your mind spinning a mile a minute with to-do lists and conversations of the day, know that this, too, is normal. 

As you continue to practice mindful breathing and these thoughts arrive to distract, use your breath as an anchor to your physical self.  And, (here’s the tough part) without judgment or criticism push those thoughts aside for another time. If you add this practice of mindful breathing into your daily routine (I suggest mornings or before bed or both) you will only be improving your health and quality of life.

The mindbody is all connected, so it follows that mindful breathing brings with it numerous benefits.  Such as?  It helps balance the two hemispheres of our brain. Boosts Immune function, stress reduction, more positive emotions while reducing depressive ones, improves memory, boosts self-compassion and the ability to empathize…to name just a few.

Mindful breathing is a significant step in cultivating your relationship of self. As you deepen this practice of tuning in, your awareness of and connection to yourself will also deepen. Over time, the act of looking inward to feel out areas of physical or emotional tension will seem as natural as…well, breathing.

Regularly tuning into our mindbodies and exploring what we see and feel inside is some of the best preventative medicine around.  Rather than ignoring our feelings and how they present themselves in our mindbodies, we listen to them and deal with them as they arise.  This allows for continual release rather than storing up stress and issues until the mindbody is overwhelmed, becoming sick or injured. When we begin to listen to our bodies we begin to listen to, love and respect ourselves. And this is the root of all healing and growth.