When we start to focus on mindful breathing, we try to follow its natural flow, a skill that we can cultivate and enjoy. It will then allow us to step back from the ego-driven mind that pushes, controls, and feels that we need to force things to happen if we want them to arise in our life. The breath occurs naturally, all we need to do is focus on it.
We know that there is a relationship between our mind and the breath, they are closely connected. Next time you are angry or see someone about to get angry, what happens to the breath? In the Northern hemisphere, we tend to hold our breath as a way to try to control our anger. When our breathing becomes rapid and shallow, it is usually because our mind is tight, nervous, and busy. As our mind starts to wind down, so does our breathing, it naturally slows and becomes deeper.
In some traditions and schools of meditation, there can be an encouragement to control the breath, to try and breathe deeply from the outset. Mindful breathing training is slightly different. Our breath becomes deeper as we start to focus on its natural flow. We do not need to alter it consciously.
To help encourage this, the first mindful breathing meditation that we engage in is the natural breath – the most simple and powerful practice. Even highly advanced meditators and yogis train in this practice, before entering more profound training. It is a great leveller and pacifier of the mind, a skill that will bring immediate benefit to our life.
Just as I am making notes for this book on the tram, the inspector’s machine broke down and stopped issuing tickets. After a few attempts, his frustration was rising. What was the first thing he did? He took a deep breath in. We subconsciously know that our breath and mind are related. Mindful breathing helps us to establish what we already know: unite the body and mind, and you will bring peace into your life. When I used to teach Buddhist meditation, we ran a publicity campaign for a series of meditation classes, entitled, ‘Peace is Closer Than You Think’. It is true; peace is right beneath our nose.
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