A 3 minute breathing exercise that will change your life.

During a busy day our attention is drawn to thousands and thousands of small and big things. We are bombarded by sensations that we have to process into something that makes sense to us.

Getting out of bed
Even getting out of bed in the morning demands processing a lot of sensations. For most of us it will start with a sound that we hear. We have to decide what the sound means. Is this our alarm clock or just a sound? You unconsciously run through sound recognition patterns. If it is the alarm clock you create the concept or image that you want to stop the noise. In order to reach that goal you have to know where the sound is coming from, you have to asses the position of your body and in particular the position of your arms. You have to gather the information and patterns that tell you how to move your arms, body and head in such away that you come closer to your goal of stopping the sound. During the process you constantly make small readjustments based on new sensations such as the blanket that needs to be moved out of the way. Most of this process you will probably do sub- or even unconscious.

Making sense
From birth on we learn how to make sense of all the sensations that we experience. We learn ourself, based on early experiences to filter sensations, see patterns, decide on priorities and create reactions patterns to deal with them. With every new experience we confirm the pattern we have created or when evidence shows us that the pattern is not correct we make an adjustment.

Small children
If you have small children in your surroundings you can observe this process of creating sub or unconscious patterns easily. Young children are predominant busy with physical and emotional patterns which by their more physical and outer nature are more easily observed. My biggest teachers are my youngest, now almost 6 weeks and her older brother of 2,5 years. A lot of their energy and attention goes to creating basic patterns to function well in this world. The moment they have created an pattern that functions well enough to perform a task they start performing the task more unconsciously. This frees some of their conscious attention and creates the opportunity to perform more tasks at the same time. Like walking, asking questions and study the surroundings for fun activities.

“Automated” reactions.
In our daily lives we have “automated” most our reactions. That means that the process of perceiving an sensation, making sense of it, setting an goal and working towards this goal happens for the biggest part outside of our consciousness. The advantages are enormous. One of the advantages is that this learning pattern has enabled us to free a lot of our conscious energy from tasks that help us to just stay alive. We can perform and are performing in increasingly complex surroundings were we have to find solutions that work well on all levels of our being. We can driving a car call wirelessly to the other end of the world, speaking a different language, dealing with cultural differences while finding a common vision of some sort that will create the basis for a deal. But if we don’t pay attention to the red traffic light it may well be the last thing that we do.

Missed the “red-light”
Everybody will have his or her own experiences were you missed the “red-light”, literally or figurative. All our attention went to perform other tasks then the most essential task at hand. Often it is only then that we realize that we have to calm down. Re-focus. Get our awareness back to the here and now. The 3 minute breathing exercise is just doing that. Getting you back to yourself.

Besides keeping you alive at the red-light this exercise has been researched a lot as part of the Mindfulness movement. This and other similar exercises, that are also used in Mindfulness, have a lot of advantages:

  • Increased self-awareness, self-trust, and self-acceptance
  • Enhanced appreciation of life
  • Serenity in the face of difficulties
  • More accepting attitude toward life and its challenges
  • More fluid adaptation to change and development of more effective coping strategies
  • Lasting decreases in a variety of stress-related physical symptoms, including chronic pain
  • Improved concentration and creativity
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Life changing
    To me this and similar exercise have proven to be life changing. Because of the sub- and unconscious nature of much of our behavioral patterns it easy to give up all your space and loose yourself in the thing that you are doing. In away there is a system overload and all that your attention is doing is jumping from one to the other pattern to keep everything going.
    Much like keeping juggling balls in the air. There is no moment to reflect and check if what you are doing is really important to you. You do the things with out thinking or checking your gut feeling about them. All is automated. Living like that is exhausting. It drains you from your life-energy. Numb and empty we often fall for other not so healthy habits only to briefly escape the feeling of emptiness. We typically start to eat and drink less healthy food, do less physical exercise or over do it, watch numbing things on the television, stay up later, etc. If you have more of these tendencies in your life then you like, start doing the exercise. With as less as 3 minutes a day you start a life shifting habit that will get you back on track. Get you more in contact with your deepest wisdom and wishes or your life destiny if you want.

    Practical: doing the exercise.
    This meditation exercise is easy to use during the day. All you basically need is a space were you will not be disturbed for 3 minutes. Your desk, your car, a small break from physical activities are all excellent moments. If there are no other options you can even withdrawal to a toilet to have a moment to get back to yourself. The pay offs over time are tremendous.

    A healthy habit
    I advice you todo exercise as often as you can, preferable at least once a hour. The more often you do the exercise the greater the benefits. The more benefits you experience the faster the process of automation works for you, you start sub- or unconsciously the exercise at every opportunity. It will become a second nature to get back to yourself. Creating new habits can be hard, you can read more about changing habits in my post: Can you change a habit in 21 days?.
    There is no better moment to start your habit then now. Have fun!

    3 minute breathing exercise

    • Bring your attention to your breath.
    • Slowly breath in and out through your nose.
    • Feel your belly rise on an in- and fall on a out-breath.
    • Make contact with the sensations in the area of your belly.
    • Observer as neutral as you possible can, without labeling, judging or changing anything.
    • Just be present with what is. Bring more and more awareness to observing your belly.
    • Keep observing your belly for 3 minutes or so much longer as you prefer. Let the sensations, emotions or thoughts pass through your center of awareness without grasping them.