What are we returning to? Our self, as experienced through our senses, in the here and now, by retuning our attention to our breath and making a conscious decision —not to engage with our thoughts.
You can do it whenever you have a minute or two to spare. This mini-mindfulness practice is a great way of getting into the habit of regularly checking in with your breath, on a daily basis. This helps to deepen your mindfulness practice as you progress to longer engagements of practicing mindfulness.
To begin your practice of returning:
- Keep your eyes open or close them, whichever you prefer.
- Bring your attention to your breath.
- Breathe normally.
- Focus on your nostrils: notice the movement of air as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Don’t follow the breath into your lungs or out into the air; just observe its in-flow and out-flow through your nostrils.
- There is no right or wrong way; just be aware of your breath as it is.
- Each time you notice your mind wandering label your thoughts simply as “thinking” and bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Don’t try to visualise your breath. Observe any subtle sensations as it comes and goes, cooler on the in-breath and warmer on the out-breath. Focus on the physical sensations that naturally occur as you allow your breath to come and go.
- Don’t try to control your breath. Just observe it. It is your full attention to it is that counts. If you have trouble staying focused on your breath, take a strong, deliberate inhalation and exhalation. Then observe as your breathing returns to its normal rhythm.
- When you notice your mind wandering, which it will, label your thoughts as “thinking” and return your awareness to your breath.
- If there are distractions, let them be, focus on your breath.
- If aches arise, gently move to ease them all the while keeping your mind on your breathing.
Accept that your mind will wander, label your thoughts as ‘thinking’ and keep returning your attention to your breath. This is the quintessence of mindfulness: Letting go of your thoughts and returning to present moment awareness with acceptance and without judgement.
Limit your practice to a minute or two at a time. You will be surprised how this simple practice can help you to maintain a calm presence of mind in difficult situations. With practice comes confidence, you can ground yourself in the moment, regardless of what is going on around you, using your breath as an anchor. It is a simple way to interrupt habitual negative thinking, or knee-jerk reactions.
I liken it to having a PAUSE button that allows me time to choose a response rather than reacting without thought or presence.