… and why it is an essential skill to help you achieve your goals for this year!
Breathing is fundamental not just to living of course, but to Mindfulness practice – and can be a key ally in achieving our goals in 2017.
I hope the New Year has started well for you. How are you getting on with your goals? Hopefully you are off to a good start and remain motivated and focussed. Hopefully you’ve not been distracted by the countless articles and programmes on self- and business- development that naturally come out this time of year. One thing’s for sure, there’s already plenty of stuff in our usual daily lives to distract us and plenty of challenges come along too.
Of course, change is not always easy (else we’d just get on with it and succeed, all the time).
Sometimes circumstances seem set against us. Sometimes, honestly, we don’t put the effort in. A lot of the time this can simply be Us getting in our own way. We pick up messages on our journey through life that lead to those negative little self-talks: ‘You won’t achieve that, don’t try! Give it up! It’s not worth the risk! One last takeaway won’t hurt!’ Our Ego is trying to protect us from risk and hurt but when we don’t find a way through it, we can find ourselves stuck.
Making Your Goals Count
Why not take a moment to visualise the end of this year when you’ve achieved or even exceeded your goals, and most importantly how that feels. Now take a moment to visualise the end of this year when stuff has managed to get in your way and you’re contemplating making the same goals again for 2018. How does that feel?
A big factor in achieving our goals is really making them personal to us – goals that we really feel and are true to us, goals that we are motivated to work towards and are not going to abandon by Spring. I talked about the Attitude of Authenticity in my post ‘The Wrong (Christmas) Jumper’ and the importance of being in touch with our authentic selves when we are looking to find our way and reach our potential.
Acceptance involves seeing things as they truly are in any particular moment. We might see how this can help bring us clarity about our goals – our starting point and the steps we might take – without fooling ourselves things are ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than they actually are. Acceptance can help us be patient when things are more challenging than we expected, and be grateful for each little success we find on the way. I talked about the Attitude of Acceptance in my post ‘New Year, Same ‘Ol (New) You’.
The Importance of Breath
To me this can be summed up neatly: ‘Get out of your heads, people!’ Mindfulness is of course about being in the moment, truly aware. We are not running on auto-pilot with the endless chatter that can often cloud our minds, and we are not reacting in ‘fight or flight’ mode.
Breathing is a prime example of auto-pilot within our bodies, something we don’t particularly notice unless we are ‘out’ of breath, triggered by emotions or are unwell or in pain for example.
When we begin our Mindfulness practice by focussing on our breath, it helps us come out of our heads. We can feel our breath as it fills our body with oxygen and energy.
During a body scan meditation we might visualise our breathing all the way down to our toes and to our fingers and out through the top of our head. During an hour glass meditation we use our breath to bring our attention from a wide awareness to just the sensations within our body and then out again. As always, if we notice our thoughts wandering we use the breath to bring our attention back again.
With youngsters, I often begin with a simple exercise of counting the number of breaths we take in one minute. We notice how the rate of breathing may change depending on how we are feeling or what we are doing. We notice if we become distracted by our thoughts. We notice any particular feelings in our body – including if we are relaxed or perhaps have a knot of tension in our head or stomach. This very simple exercise helps us reconnect our minds, our body, and our breathing. We can be truly grounded in the moment.
There are all sorts of fun exercises we can do. The soup bowl is a practice of cupping our hands like a bowl and practicing breathing in and out of this. We can visualise making a square as we breathe in, hold our breath a moment and then breathe out again in a series of four. We can do a similar five-finger exercise tracing the outspread fingers of one hand. We can use the silent sigh to experience breathing out slowly and noticing if our mind and bodies feel differently afterward.
The Usefulness of Breathing to Achieving our Goals
So, hopefully you can see the practice of breathing Mindfully can be extremely useful. It can help ground us. We can enhance the stability of our minds, by the sensation of breathing through the body. We can improve our focus and concentration, bringing our attention fully to any activity.
If we get anxious we can purposely slow our breathing (this can take a little more persistence for those who suffer anxiety attacks as it can feel a bit triggery at first). When we focus on our breathing we might notice our mind is busy or emotions high, and we can use it in the reverse to help settle us at such times.
The focus on breath is really useful in helping us get through the chatter of our Ego and more in tune with our authentic selves and therefore with our goals.
If nothing else, try to remember to use this exercise: Pause, take a breath
In any situation we can pause and take a breath. Feel the breath as it fills your lungs. Centre yourself. Don’t act instantly from habit and emotion. Let the wisdom of your Authentic Self surface.
Way To Go:
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