Relax with the breath
by Shauna Shapiro
Mindfulness of the breath
Take a moment to consider your own mind. It’s said that we have about 50-70,000 thoughts a day. You’ve probably noticed the constant stream of thoughts that move through your mind and the fact that a lot of the time, your mind is actually not focused on what you’re doing.
Maybe you can relate to sitting down to work, and catching yourself jumping between tasks and feeling like you’re not really doing anything properly? Or perhaps you’ve noticed how easily you can get hijacked by your Facebook stream and waste hours numbing out, when you could have spent that time doing something far more productive.
Many of us are finding it so difficult to switch off at night and go to sleep, with our minds racing through all the things we need to do the next day.
When you think about it, you have far less control over your mind than you think. In many ways your mind, has a mind of its own.
In fact the mind has often been referred to as the “monkey mind”, and just like a monkey jumping from branch to branch, the untrained mind jumps from thought to thought, very rarely able to stay in one place.
The idea of mindfulness meditation is to train our minds so that we can choose where we want to focus our attention and keep it there.
In mindfulness meditation we always need something specific on which we can focus our attention. Yesterday you explored focusing your attention on the body. Today we use the breath to keep us anchored to the present moment.
Research by Herbert Benson, Harvard cardiologist, has shown that resting our attention on the breath regularly, elicits the ‘Relaxation Response’. This is a biological state that counters the impact of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response reducing the impact of stress.
Enjoy this guest meditation and stay accountable to your practice by letting the community of meditators know you’ve done it by sharing any observations that you made during the practice in the Facebook group (simply click the COMMUNITY button below).
What did you notice about the breath today – was it long or short?
Where in the body did you feel the breath most noticeably?
What did you notice about your mind and your attention?
ABOUT SHAUNA SHAPIRO
Shauna L. Shapiro, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University and an internationally recognised expert in mindfulness. Dr Shapiro has recently featured at TedX with her talk “The Power of Mindfulness: What You Practice Grows Stronger” and has been featured by many media outlets, such as: Wired magazine, USA Today, Dr. Oz, the Huffington Post, Yoga Journal, and the American Psychologist.You can find out more about her work in her critically acclaimed books The Art and Science of Mindfulness and Mindful Discipline: A loving approach to setting limits and raising an emotionally intelligent child.