loveyourself mindfulness jennikaargent countingbreaths
Sitting in a hot Epsom salt bath one evening, I began to feel a little uncomfortable. I wanted to stay in there for longer, so I could get the full benefit of the salts, but I felt restless and not all that relaxed. I decided that I would at least stay in there for 50 breaths. Why I chose this number or method I don’t know. All I know is that it seemed like a good number.
I began to count my breaths. As I did this, I watched the steam weightlessly lifting from the surface of the water. My breaths naturally slowed down. It seemed to take much longer than expected to reach 50, but I reached that number, and during that time I had managed to enjoy a lot more of the bath than before I started counting.
I applied it to a few journeys into and out of work, and realised it was an great form of meditation practice. The great part is that the second you lose count, you know that you lost concentration and come back to the breath. So in order to keep count, we really have to stay with the breath and not get lost in thinking.
Months later and I am reading a book about Zen. I find it is actually a real technique practiced in Buddhism and mindfulness which I didn’t know about.
A couple of weeks ago, I reached exactly 650 breaths from train platform to train platform on a journey across London (I take roughly 10 breaths per minute, so the journey was some 65 mins). It wasn’t actually that hard – but what was hard, was not responding to texts, since it was VERY difficult to respond and keep counting.
If you have never tried this, then why not try now? Perhaps starting with 10, and building it up slowly. Even if you never reach 10, just by realising you have lost count, you are practicing mindfulness of the breath. Congratulations! Let me know how far you get before you lose count…
Have you ever had one of those nights where you wake up and can’t get back to sleep? How come we can fall asleep on a packed commuter train with our mouths wide open catching flies, yet not in the comfort of our own beds? I think a little of it comes down to the rocking motion of the train, but maybe a bit it comes down to expectations. When we lie in our beds expecting and trying to fall asleep, we end up annoyed that we are awake. This state of annoyance is what keeps you awake. So start by enjoying being awake for a moment. Enjoy the feel of the covers on your skin, bring your awareness to the various parts of your body, feel the tingling in your toes and the pulsing in your palms, lay your hand on your heart for a moment, and listen to it gently beating in your chest. Then enjoy just breathing, as soon as you begin to relax, you will notice your body breathe a sigh of relief and your lungs and belly will naturally expand to take a wider breath. As you breathe in, take the breath deep into your belly… you can now try a visualization! I’ve listed a few below:
- As you breathe in, imagine yourself absorbing energy from the earth below you, this comes in through the soles of your feet and travels up your body and into your lungs to be circulated around your body. As you breathe out, then release any tension or negative thoughts.
- Imagine yourself looking deep into the night sky. See all the glittering, sparkling stars and as you breathe in, imagine that you are breathing in the energy from these stars, in the form of a pure white light. This light feels warm and tingly as the energy enters your lungs and spreads down into your belly – you might even hear your belly give a little grumble – this is great, it means your visualization has caused an energetic movement and a shift of energy.
- Imagine yourself to be an ice cube melting – not so much in the sense of being cold, but in the sense of going from solid to liquid. As each drop of water trickles away, you release any tension in your muscles… you gently and slowly melt down into a liquid pool of water, holding no tension at all.