FOCUSING ON YOUR BREATH
Paying attention to your breath is a good and easy place to start because it is a simple, yet profound practice and is used in all other practices such as yoga and meditation. Your breath is always with you, it is automatic and rhythmic, so you can close your eyes and easily focus your attention on it. Unless you already meditate, you are probably not used to slowing down, turning your focus inward, and paying attention to things such as your breath. Over time, you will find this practice develops your ability to feel calm and centered, and not just while doing it, but at other times in your life. The simple practice of paying attention to your breath can help you become acquainted with your witnessing presence, or soul self.
COUNTING YOUR BREATH
This is a very easy but effective mindfulness practice. You simply find a place to sit, close your eyes, and begin to count each breath. Each inhale and exhale can count as one, or you can count your inhale as one and exhale as two. Doing this helps train your mind to block out other distractions andfocus on one thing. When you become distracted, which you will, simply return to your focus on your breath and begin counting again. Set a timer and do this for just 5 minutes, and you will see not only how easy it is, but how calm you can get just by doing this. You can begin to lengthen the time to 10 minutes and longer if you wish. If you do this every day you will notice a difference in your ability to calm your brain and nervous system and the ability to notice and shift your mind back from distractions just by focusing on your breath.
Now try it for yourself.
My experience with counting my breath:
The anti-anxiety breath is one of the exercises we use most frequently with clients. This simple breathing technique can calm an overactive nervous system rather quickly and has become a very handy tool. Some people have found that this breathing technique helped them reduce or eliminate the needfor anti-anxiety medication.
Sit in a quiet, comfortable place where you can spend a few undisturbed minutes. Close your eyes, settle yourself into a comfortable sitting position, and pay attention to your breathing.
Notice that you are paying attention to your life force. Count how long it takes you to inhale, and then try to extend your exhale two counts longer. For example, if you count to six while inhaling, you would count to eight while exhaling. Simply doing that for a few minutes has allowed highly anxious clients to be able to sit still in groups, get settled before starting a conversation or entering a new situation, and even quell a panic attack. We both practice anti-anxiety breathing when we are late in traffic, before a speaking engagement, and in many other situations where high anxiety is present.