To breathe is to be alive in our mind and body, but to breathe mindfully is to be alive in all spheres of human consciousness.
So if mindful breathing is so beneficial, why are so many of us still not adapting mindfulness when it comes to breath-work and meditation?
Mindful breathing is a natural and powerful meditation practice. The idea of mindfully breathing is to learn how to focus your attention on your breathing—so it becomes a natural flow and rhythm in each inhale and exhale. I like to think of it as consciously breathing.
In introspection or meditative practices, focusing on the breath can be particularly helpful, as it serves as an anchor—something you could turn your attention towards when feelings of stress or anxiety surface.
Mindful breathing can be beneficial when seeking to ground yourself, as negative emotions have a way of clouding our minds and causing negative thoughts, or as I like to say, waves— big, giant, overwhelming waves that block a calm state of being.
I’ve been an active meditator and spiritualist for the past eight years, and one thing I’ve always seemed to struggle with was my breathing.
Some days I’d go into the meditative state for introspection and have total control of my breath while easing into the calm and enlightened state of my mind. I would anchor myself, so to say, and not allow the waves to drown me but rather flow with the current.
Other times, however, I’d forget to breathe, as if that is logically possible, and all my mind would only turn its focus to the waves and how big and overwhelming they felt. With no anchor to ground me, drowning in the thoughts of fears, doubts, and past events could quickly become all too real.
These sessions would become so ridden with incoherent breathing and racing thoughts of too fast, too slow, too much focusing on how I am doing it wrong, too many distractions, and the list goes on. Instead of just anchoring down and breathing, I’d find myself drifting and drowning.
It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a guided mindful breathing session on the Inside Timer app that I truly understood what it meant to breathe mindfully.
So, if you’re looking for an anchor in the storm or a different technique for your meditative and introspection practices, here are some tips and insights for mindful breathing.
1. Try not to force it.
Things you should not try to force: perfect hairstyles, relationships, meditation, yoga poses, and farts. Although this sounds simple, you’ll be surprised how many people try to tell their minds to quiet down, which in return has the exact opposite effect. Instead of forcing the mind to be still, rather let it take you where it needs to take you. Letting your mind lead you is a good way of identifying anxieties or stressful situations in your life. Once you’ve identified waves in your mind, so to say, you can start focusing on anchoring yourself down with your breath.
2. Visualize the ocean.
Visualizing your thoughts, hopes, fears, and feelings is a powerful tool to use in meditation. We often think that a black void of nothing is what bliss looks like, and though that might be true for some, it is not the case for everyone. Visualize the ocean and its depth, and imagine your mind to be this vast ocean of possibilities. Create a space within your mind that allows you to visualize the aspects of yourself as if it were an ocean.
3. Visualize the waves.
I like to think of the waves as thoughts and emotions, and although we need to feel them, we shouldn’t let them drown us. Some waves or thoughts are massive and overwhelming and require deep anchoring and grounding, while others are small and pass by relatively easy. What’s important is that we can visualize them and categorize them accordingly.
4. Become the Anchor.
Easier said than done, but visualizing yourself as an anchor in the ocean and using your breath to strengthen your position on the ocean floor with each inhale allows you to ground yourself with mindful breathing. When we visualize ourselves as anchors, we need to visualize the qualities of an anchor, heavy, endurable, and anchoring.
5. Let it flow.
Once you have visualized the ocean, the waves and yourself as the anchor, it’s time to let it flow as the currents do. There is no forcing or controlling or fighting the flow of the ocean.
Only flowing with the breath and being mindful with each inhale and exhale.