Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reducing Anxiety

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!
These words are from a book I once read called Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh who is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk.  The book is about practicing mindfulness in everyday life.  One passage I read was about how we all think too much.  For most of us our minds have a never ending tape loop that plays over and over.  Much of what we think about is not worth the time and a great number of our thoughts are negative.  By focusing on our breath, we can reduce the amount of time wasted on unnecessary and potentially negative thinking.  Realistically, we cannot stop all thinking.  Many of life’s daily tasks require some level of intellectual activity.  However, I give you this challenge.  Today, when you are not involved in a task that requires you to think, don’t think.  Between your tasks that require thinking, focus on your breath and enjoy the stillness that it will bring.  If you choose to have a cup of coffee or tea during these moments, smell the aroma of the coffee or tea, pay attention to the taste of your coffee or tea, and finally, enjoy it in a very mindful way.  For those few moments let your attention be on your breathing and the experience of your drink.  Such intentional focus is what mindfulness is all about.
Focusing on your breath can also help with anxiety.  On my recent vacation I had to fly one leg of my trip on standby.  At the last minute my family got the last six seats on a flight and they were scattered all over the plane.  I ended up at the back of the plane in a window seat.  This would normally give me great anxiety.  I thought it was a good time to practice what I preach.  I sat in my seat, closed my eyes, and began focusing on my breath.  The flight lasted about an hour and I did not feel any anxiety.  Eventually I got into a conversation with the lady sitting next to me.  We talked about mindfulness and I told her I had been practicing mindfulness on the flight.  She replied, “I could tell you were meditating”.  The only anxiety I experienced on my trip was when I had to be with my entire family, especially during meals. (smile) 

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