It takes skill to be able to sort out the distractions and demands of daily life and pay attention to how the body is responding to what is happening. Developing that skill begins with awareness. There are several ways to learn how to listen to your body. You are going to learn a highly effective one today.
After 25-plus years of teaching stress management classes, Patsi and I have had the opportunity to get feedback from past participants. It usually happens when we run into someone when we are in a restaurant, out shopping or some other public activity. A typical comment might be, “Remember those breathing exercises? They really got me through some really tough times.”
What they refer to is Peaceful Pause. It is an awareness exercise we taught to help participants become aware of – and calm their bodies so they could face their daily challenges. We are sharing Peaceful Pause with you, so feel free to make a copy for your own daily practice.
It is important to set aside the 5-10 minutes it takes every day to turn your awareness inside, do the breathing and empty your mind of wandering thoughts. Once Peaceful Pause becomes a habit, it will be a powerful resource you can use to help yourself during stressful and challenging times. When you become good enough at it, you can take a deep breath and be immediately calmer and more present to the situation before you.
Your Peaceful Pause Daily Practice
Find a quiet place where you can be by yourself. Allow 5-10 minutes of private time. You may want to dim the lights or use soothing music. Find a comfortable spot to sit or lie comfortably.
CHECK-IN: Turn your awareness inside. Notice the sensations in your body – don’t judge or try to change anything. Are there areas of tightness . . . or relaxation? Are there areas of comfort . . . or discomfort? How is your energy level – high . . . low . . so-so? What is your mood right now? When you inhale and exhale, is your chest or abdomen moving more?
Place your hands on your abdomen. Breathe slowly and gently into your abdomen, allowing your breath to come fully. Don’t force your breathing. Wait for the need to inhale . . wait for the need to exhale. Just inhale and exhale slowly, gently.
If thoughts of pressing matters come to you in this quiet time, let your mind know that you will attend to them shortly – but for now, this is your time to regenerate.
After 5-10 minutes, CHECK-IN again as above (i.e. Notice the sensations in your body: Are there areas of tightness . . . or relaxation? Are there areas of comfort . . . or discomfort? How is your energy level – high . . . low . . or so-so? What is your mood? When you inhale and exhale, is your chest or abdomen moving more? Notice any differences you feel now compared to when you began your Peaceful Pause.
Close the session by taking a deep breath, wiggling your fingers and toes and stretching. Bring your awareness back to the present. Take time to savor your new-found relaxation.
It is best to choose the same time and place every day. Once this type of breathing becomes a habit, you can take a deep breath in the middle of hectic times to help ease your reactions to stress and chaos.