Rowan University Counseling and Psychological Services Psychology Intern
To participate in a brief 3-minute breathing exercise, you will be focusing your attention on your breath and on the unfolding of your current experience (anything that distracts you from your breath). If possible, find a quiet place where you can be seated or lie in a position where your back maintains a straight and dignified posture. Imagine a string running from the top of your head up the ceiling. If you feel comfortable, you can close your eyes, or find a quiet place to rest your gaze such as the floor or wall in front of you.
Start by taking a few deep breaths through your nose, counting to 2 or 3 with each in breath, and 3-4 with each out breath. Really notice and observe what it feels like to breathe. How could you describe this experience to someone from another planet who had never breathed oxygen before? What does it feel like?
Pay attention to your breath for as long as you are able, or until you feel distracted by a different thought, emotion, or sensation. Now make room for the new experience…
The goal in this exercise is to bring yourself fully into the present moment by deliberately asking yourself:
“What is my experience right now …in thoughts…in feelings…and in physical sensations?”
Observe and notice each of these distractions one at a time, with genuine curiosity, and without making any judgments about yourself for feeling distracted. Allow yourself to be aware of your current experience, even if it involves something that feels unwanted or unpleasant.
Next, gently redirect your full attention back to your breath. Allow yourself to notice every detail about this experience of breathing. You might imagine that any stress that you are feeling is tied to your breath by a string. Make an effort to relax the muscles as you exhale, repeating the phrase “relax” to yourself with each out breath, while allowing the tension to leave your body.
If you notice that you keep feeling distracted by intruding thoughts, emotions or sensations, just allow those thoughts to enter into your awareness without judgment, each time making mental note of your experience of “thinking” or “feeling distracted.” Just as easily as you have allowed these thoughts to enter into your awareness, simply allow them to pass, without forcing anything.
You might imagine that you are sitting in front of a passing stream. With each new thought, emotion or feeling, imagine that the experience is a leaf floating past, as you observe your experience. Maybe describe the color, shape, size, etc. Each time you allow a leaf to float past, return your full attention to the breath.
Think of your breath as an anchor for your attention, bringing you into the present moment and helping you to tune into a state of awareness of your current experience. Know that you can return to this space at any time to redirect your attention to what is going on for you right now. Your job is not to clear the mind, but simply to notice when you are distracted, and return to the breath each time. If you find yourself distracted a thousand times, your job is to bring yourself back to the breath a thousand times.
As you end the exercise and bring your full attention back to the room, bring this same sense of openness and nonjudgmental awareness with you into your next experience, and into the rest of your day.