That time I realized I was holding my breath...
So there is something weird I noticed about myself a few years ago. I noticed it only because a friend pointed it out to me.
I was holding my breath.
I would be sitting in a meeting or having coffee with someone - and I would suddenly inhale deeply. Like I had just come back to the surface in a pool.
I started to notice that I was holding my breath and didn't even realize it consciously until my friend pointed it out. What I started to notice was that when my thoughts were churning and I was putting my lungs on pause. Not cool. Oxygen is kind of important right?
As I began to make this unconscious action more conscious and brought it into my awareness I was able to question it and figure out what was happening. What I began to become aware of was that in times when I was really stuck in my head and thinking rapidly about a lot going on I would start holding my breath and get even more consumed with thinking. This pattern was making me feel anxious and in a way I was disconnecting from what was happening around me. It reminded me a lot about the work of Tara Brach, whom I adore. She often speaks about the times when we are trapped in worried thoughts, racing minds, and living in a "virtual reality."
And I am not trying to say there is something wrong with deeply spending time with our thoughts. Spending time in thought and exploring out inner emotional world can be a powerful tool for change. But when it removes us from the present moment it can lead to anxiety and worry.
The problems arise when we are in our thoughts replaying the events of the last hour, the past week, or living in the future - worried about what is ahead (which we also have little control over).
So this got me thinking. I wonder how many of us have some type of physical sensation related to being trapped in that worried thinking space that we can transform into a means to becoming more mindful of our patterns? I hear it a lot from clients that they notice the tension in the shoulders, the know in the belly, etc, etc. What is it for you? I think many people, when we begin to pay attention to our bodies can tune into small physcial changes that let us know we are stressed or overwhelmed.
I tell clients to watch out for "HALT"
These can be the moments when we may also be able to cue into physical sensations and use those as road maps to our emotions.
So back to holding my breath...
I started a practice - when I noticed I was holding my breath I would take 1-2 minutes to get back to my deep breathing from the belly and asked myself a simple question. "Where was I stuck?" In this simple mindfulness practice I invited the chance to reflect. And guess what I noticed? This only took 30 seconds. It was not a dramatic practice - but it took time to get into the routine.
Deepening the breath allowed me to feel more relaxed and more tuned into the world happening around me. This simple moment allowed me to reflect and make a choice on how to move myself forward. See even Psychologists and therapists continue to grow and change. We are all in process. #truth!
So today I would invite you to try one thing.
Can you notice a moment when your body is giving you a message. Tension, pain, shortness of breath? Ask - "What is this telling me?" Or maybe the question is "Where are my thoughts when I feel this sensation?"
In this practice you can begin to notice the pattern more automatically and question it when it is occurring.
If you read this far please go back to the facebook post and considering sharing this with a friend. If you haven't yet followed me on facebook go ahead- I send out new posts three times a week.
We are in this together. Who knows - maybe someone else is holding their breath - stuck in their thoughts. I hope this entry can help you also reflect on the one thing you can start to notice today. What is your body trying to tell you??