Oct 132011

Paying attention to your physical senses is a helpful way to calm the mind when your thoughts are stuck in worry mode. Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting can help bring the mind into the present moment. Sometimes thoughts of the past or the future become overwhelming, and focusing on the present moment can help calm your mind.

“Breath focus” is an exercise to help you focus on the present. Most meditation practices use breath as a central theme or core activity. Breath focus is an easy tool that is based on many of these meditation traditions and practices.

To do breath focus, you simply pay attention to your breathing. You don’t need to try to breathe in a certain way. Just breathe, and watch all the little steps involved. Feel the air entering your nostrils. Focus on the air passing down your windpipe. Listen to see if your nose, mouth, or voice box is making any sound as you breathe. Feel how slowly or rapidly you are breathing in and out. Feel how far the air goes down into your body. Perhaps your breath is shallow right now, and the air is going a little way into your chest. Maybe you are breathing more deeply, and the air is filling your lungs and pushing down to your abdomen. Look down and see how your chest or abdomen moves with your breath.

Focusing on your breath can engage the senses of feeling, hearing, seeing, and smelling. Practice the exercise for a minute or two at home when things are quiet. You should find that your thoughts calm down a little as you put your attention on your breathing in the present moment. When you are comfortable doing this exercise at home, then you can try it out when stressful or nervous situations arise.

You can expand the exercise to other activities besides breathing. Try focusing all five senses as you pour and drink a glass of juice. Listen to the sound of the juice leaving the bottle. Feel the coldness of the bottle. Think about smell, taste, color, sound, shape, motion, and temperature as you raise the glass to your mouth and drink the juice.

A few moments focusing on the present can help your mind when it is stuck worrying or fretting. Doing an exercise like breath focus can strengthen your ability to quiet and control your thoughts when worry and nervousness are stealing the show. Try the exercise for a few days, and leave a comment to let folks know how it worked for you.

Check out the “Mood Surfing” tele-class recording on my resources page for a demonstration of breath focus and other exercises for calming the mind.

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