Mindfulness and meditation – nowadays, you can see these two words almost everywhere. The reason why they’re so popular is simple. Practicing mindfulness and meditation leads to living in the here and now; it helps us accept the past, appreciate what we have, and let go of the future-related anxiety.
Calming down a busy mind requires a lot of practice. As with any skill, you have to start from somewhere. In this article, you’ll get familiar with one of the most common mindfulness activities for beginners: controlled breathing.
This mindfulness exercise is simple but very effective. If you take the time to explore the new sensations, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more at ease.
Before we dive into this new world, I’d like to clarify something. I often hear the question: “How long will it take to become good at practicing mindfulness?”
Exactly as personal growth, mindfulness is a path, not a destination. It’s very dangerous to believe that one’s personal growth, education, or skill level has reached its peak.
Practicing mindfulness is not having a list of activities that you can tick off until you’re done with all of them. On the contrary, through mindfulness, you enter a state of constant development, and you’ll be amazed by all the new things you’ll discover about the world and yourself.
So, to answer the question, it will take a lifetime.
Like musicians or athletes, people who practice mindfulness would never be able to say they’ve seen and experienced it all. Only if you can find peace despite the fact that you’ll never fully conquer your mind, you’ll be able to take the maximum of each practice.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and all of them help you develop and explore your (sub)consciousness. Some of them include observing one thing at a time, without any form of judgment. Others help you reconnect with the present moment by using all your senses.
Practicing mindfulness sounds easy, but it’s not. There are plenty of people who have been doing this every single day for years, and who still experience moments when their thoughts wander away.
At the same time, there are no restrictions when it comes to the duration of the mindfulness practice. It’s worth it to focus on your consciousness and personality, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes per day.
Mindfulness for Beginners: Controlled Breathing
As we all know from personal experience, our minds tend to wander constantly. Our thoughts are always different from what we should be concentrating on. Therefore, it’s crucial to have an anchor, which can help us come back to the here and now.
No matter how busy, tired, or overwhelmed you are, you keep on breathing. Your breath is your anchor in life. Paying attention to the way you breath is a great part of any mindfulness exercise. That’s what makes it the perfect activity for beginners.
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By controlled breathing, you bring your consciousness and energy to the thing that has always been there, ever since you were born: your breath.
Having a quiet space for your mindfulness practice is a must. Make sure you find a spot where you won’t be disturbed and plan at least 10 minutes for this activity.
Afterward, sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. You can also use a meditation pillow if you like. Your back should be straight, and your shoulders relaxed.
Close your eyes or keep them slightly open, looking at a spot one meter away from you.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do this.
Begin with three or more deep breaths. Inhale deeply, exhale fully.
Then go back to your natural breathing rhythm, and concentrate on it. By doing this, you focus on yourself.
Whenever you notice that your thoughts start wandering, bring your attention back to your breathing.
Especially in the beginning, your mind won’t be able to calm down at all as you’re not used to practicing mindfulness. This is absolutely normal, though!
Don’t get caught up in a spiral or critical thoughts just because you can’t stay focused for more than a glimpse. Instead, start from the beginning. Reconnect with your breath and find peace in it.
After a couple of minutes, point your attention to the way your body moves each time you inhale. Observe where does the airflow go to. Do you feel it in your nostrils? Or is it going straight to your belly? The particular place is not of such significance; it’s acknowledging it that matters. This way, you feel your body and reunite with it.
Switch your attention to observing how you exhale. The process of breathing out should be the only thing you notice in this world.
Afterward, widen your focus and pay attention to both in- and exhaling. Observe without judging everything you feel. Keep on doing this for a couple of minutes.
Now acknowledge what is happening in your mind. Recognize any thoughts that are floating around and let them go. As if they’re little white clouds in the sky – you see them, but it’s not necessary to act upon them.
When the time is over, gently bring your consciousness back to your surroundings. Open your eyes if they were closed. Allow yourself to enjoy this moment of peace.
It’s vital to remember that you can always come back to your breath in stressful moments. Whatever happens, you can use this exercise to calm your mind and regain your balance.
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The controlled breathing exercise can be either an eye-opening or a frustrating experience. It’s difficult to accept that your mind is always busy with judgemental or irrelevant thoughts. But like anything new, practicing mindfulness is challenging at first and brings a reward only if you take the time to immerse yourself in it.
Using the following guided mindfulness meditation you can also learn to be completely present, letting go of your thoughts and achieving calmness: