How to breathe


All of us have been breathing since before we were born, so by now, it’s natural to think we’re pretty good at it. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you are used to shallow breathing, which contributes to negative feelings and a general sense of tension and limitation.

When I get nervous or upset, my breathing automatically becomes even more shallow, quick and constricted. It works both ways, however: consciously changing my breath can change my feelings.

When I take longer, deeper breaths, I feel more open, peaceful, present and content. When I slow down my breathing, I program my brain to feel calm and focused.

Lately I have been practicing a meditation recorded by my mentor, Mary Jane Kapteyn. The meditation focuses on conscious breathing, and results in a wonderful feeling of inner peace and spiritual expansion. Translation: I sit and breathe for a while, and I feel way better.

The breathing starts with “grounding,” which uses visualization to focus the mind’s attention in the body (rather than out in the stratosphere, which is where most of us like to go when we meditate). At this stage, I breathe deeply into my gut, and visualize the in-breath of energy going down beyond my belly, through my hips and legs, grounding me like a lightning rod into the floor.

After a few minutes of deep breathing into the gut, I start to feel my chest expand. This is when I consciously breathe that energy into my heart center, allowing my heart to expand. Going through a normal day, with a busy mind and constant Ego chatter, my heart closes in on itself. I close off my emotional center to the outside world, because I get overwhelmed by the world’s noise. During meditation, I consciously open my heart again, so that I can experience the divine energy of compassion and grace.

The opening energy of the breath moves upward through my chest and into my head, where my mind has been busily chattering away. Now it’s time to expand the Third Eye chakra, and allow the busy conscious mind to relax and hand over the reigns to its spiritual cousin. And then, I visualize the expansion moving up from my Third Eye Chakra into my Crown Chakra, at the top of my head, opening me up to divine energy flowing easily through me, abundantly and lovingly.

The recorded meditation is 25 minutes long, so I won’t go into the rest of the details. Starting with this short breathing exercise may help you calm down and open your mind to peaceful possibilities. When I feel my heart closing off in negative feelings, sometimes I do a quick mini-meditation, breathing deeply and expanding my chest, just for a few seconds, and that helps me open to a more positive mindset.

If you would like a copy of the meditation CD I use, go to http://themodernmonk.com/ and look for the “Products” tab. I don’t get any commissions from her or anything, but if you get a chance, tell her I sent you, and maybe I’ll score a brownie point.

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About Craig

Craig lives in Calgary, Alberta.
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