How Often Do You Communicate With Yourself?
There are many ways in which we communicate with each other. Take social media for an example. From the comfort of our couch, we can keep up to date with each other’s comings and goings from anywhere in the world. Through Instagram, I can follow my sister-in-law living it up in Australia and watch my friend’s children grow up in Colorado while I live in Michigan.
Although social media sites offer amazing opportunities to keep us connected to our loved ones and acquaintances, how much are you communicating and connecting with yourself?
I’m not talking about having an actual conversation with yourself. Though you could if you wanted to.
What I am suggesting here is for you to sit with yourself. Breathe. Pause. Take in the present moment and stop thinking.
A mindful breathing exercise will reduce your stress and improve your mental and physical health.
By becoming more mindful with your breath, your overall well-being will improve. You will be more focused and able to think more clearly. You will experience more moments of peace throughout the day. Tasks and duties that you found distressful before, will begin to appear lighter and less task-like as you adopt a mindful breathing practice. You will notice that you are more intuitive with your body and what it needs. You will be able to hear what your body is saying rather than waiting for it to cry out for attention through aches and pains.
As you sit with yourself and just breathe, you are creating a mind and body connection. You are creating stillness within. This connection is important because as you become aware of your breath, you become aware of your body. You get a sense of what is going on within—your emotions, observations about life, your own needs.
Thict Nhat Hahn said, “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”
Using the breath to come home
Thict Nhat Hahn, a global spiritual leader and peace activist, describes a mindful breathing practice as “coming home”. Coming home to yourself. I found a mindful breathing practice creates a space filled with warmth and security. A place you where are more fulfilled. Mindful breathing can be as relaxing as cozying up next to a fire, wrapped in a blanket with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa or tea.
I have discovered mindful breathing has helped me regain composure when feelings of angst and anxiety arise. I call this a “wet sock moment”. You know what I’m talking about here. You are walking around the house with socks on, and BAM! You step in something wet! It’s not always a wet sock or it might not ever be a wet sock for you; it can be anything that disturbs your inner peace. I have fewer moments of strife since I have implemented this practice. I’m even working on teaching my three-year-old how to breathe through his “wet sock moments”.
Creating your own practice
When you go to a movie theater, the symphony, a lecture, a group event, a class, or maybe lunch with a friend, you are encouraged to turn off your phone. Most of the time, you are asked to turn it completely silent because the vibration setting can be disruptive. This is because you are in a setting in which you chose to communicate with others or someone is communicating their ideas and thoughts with you. To fully connect, to be present with others, it helps to have your devices at bay.
The same is needed for you to communicate and connect with yourself.
How much do you pay attention to your breath?
- Turn off your phone. Close your laptop. Switch off your tablet.
- Sit or lie down if you aren’t already. You can do this with your eyes open.
- Take a deep breath.
- After you inhale, hold your breath for 3 seconds.
- Now, exhale, hold your breath again for 3 seconds.
- Do this for the next four breaths. Holding your breath at the top of each inhale and exhale.
How did that feel? I felt a little weird when this was first introduced to me, but now I do it whenever I need to get my mind back from wandering and put myself back into the present moment.
By doing this, you are in control of your breath. You dictate how you breathe. And I bet the whole time you did this mindful breathing exercise, you didn’t have any thoughts about the past or future. I’d say your mind, even if you had thoughts was in the present.
While practicing mindful breathing, you may notice you feel more alive and more peace. Like a calm has washed over you. When you hold your breath at the top of the inhale, you are holding inside of you this life force. Your body is filled with this invigorating energy. When you hold your breath at the top of the exhale, you are holding an empty space within your body. A feeling of hollowness is regarded and sacred. You are creating contrast in your mind and body.
Where Are Your Thoughts?
If your thoughts are in the past or in the future, your thoughts are full of worry. These thoughts are now creating emotions that are not serving you. The truth is, these thoughts, these worrisome and self-defeating thoughts are your perceptions of what is happening. Rather your misperceptions of what is happening. Because, if you took a deep, a hard look into the root cause of these thoughts you could see the many facets of the situation; you would see more clearly. You could see steps to problem solving. You could see that there are many blessings in your life. You might even be able to see the lesson you are meant to learn in this situation.
But! This kind of clarity will never come until you sit with yourself and communicate with yourself.
Ponder this…how much of your thinking is positive and productive? Do you find yourself thinking about things that happened in the past or could happen in the future? What you could have said or what you are going to say? What you should have done or what you need to do?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it is time you put yourself in the present. Stop thinking. How? I can hear you ask. How do I stop thinking?
Mindful Breathing for Staying Present
The very first thing Buddhists monks learn as children in the monastery is how to breathe. Yes, breathing is automatic and our subconscious controls and regulates our breath. But, being mindful of the breath, learning how to control the breath, learning how to breathe takes practice.
Stop thinking about all the things you should have done or should be doing. The things you could have said or will say. The things that happened yesterday and might happen tomorrow.
These thoughts are robbing you from the present moment. Taking you into the past and putting you in the future. Keeping you out of the present moment. It is in the present where we find the stillness that speaks. Where we can feel that life-giving breath that nourishes our physical bodies and eases our tired minds.
Communication of this sort doesn’t need to happen all day. Although that would be lovely. But, imagine if you allowed yourself a moment or two each day to sit with yourself. What would it feel like if you just stopped thinking? What would it feel like it you paid attention to your breath and allowed yourself to feel the life inside of you—your very essence, your life force, YOU!
It’s not as simple to do as it is to say. But, as Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism and author of the Tao-Te-Ching, says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” In this case, let’s take one breath.