Feel Your Breath: Mindful Breathing – The First Step to Emotional Awareness and Control by Davidicus Wong, M.D.

We all have our secret selves – the parts of ourselves we keep concealed from the rest of the world. But there are parts of yourself of which even you are unaware.

You are more than you appear to be. You are a unique complex of conflicting thoughts, emotions and sensations, some of it on the surface, much of it hidden even from your own awareness.

Deeper still lies a part of yourself that can make sense of it all, where meaning, purpose and peace reside.

But to access that deeper self, you must first attend to your present, how you feel at this moment.

In my last column, I introduced my approach to meditation with seven questions. So in answer to my first question, “What do I feel?”, feel your breath. Attending to the simple act of breathing, you can attain just enough distance to look clearly at your present state – the feelings you are experiencing at this moment.

Normally, you breathe without thinking about it, but when you shift your consciousness to the effortless flow of air through your nose and into your lungs and the natural flow from your lungs through your nose, you will find that you can control not only the rhythm of your breaths but the pace of your thoughts.

Attending first to your breath, to the refreshing fullness of a slow, deep breath and to the full-bodied release as you exhale, you can feel a rise in your positive energy while you release your tensions.

Mindful breathing can serve as a time-out when the pace of the day’s activities, your own thoughts, or your present feelings seem overwhelming. The pauses between breathing in, breathing out and breathing in again can represent the still point – the centre where you can take a step back and see yourself – your feelings, thoughts and actions at this moment.

What are you feeling? What emotions are controlling you?

Is it anger? Does it come from frustrations where reality doesn’t live up to your expectations? Is it from the behaviour of others or circumstances over which you have no control?

What are the thoughts that underlie your anger? Is there another way of thinking about the situation? Could you be reacting to the present with the feelings of the past?

Sometimes current circumstances and the words and actions of others can trigger anger and resentment from our past. Our reactions can be heavily influenced by the back story of our past. We can fall into old patterns of reacting. Can you recognize any pattern to your reactions?
Are you anxious? Does this arise from feeling unprepared or just feeling rushed? We can’t control everything in life, but there are many things we can. We sometimes just forget we have a choice. Where do your choices lie? Are you taking on too much? Are you able to say no when someone asks you to do something you just can’t fit into your day? Are you able to ask for help?
At any given time, we need just the right amount of challenge to feel engaged. If you don’t have enough challenge in your day, you’re bored. When the challenge exceeds your resources, you’re stressed.

Negative, catastrophic thinking can raise feelings of anxiety. Our worried thoughts can make our world seem too much for us to handle. By taking a time out to feel your breath, you can bring down your anxiety a notch and reflect on your thoughts. As you control your breath, you can learn to control your thoughts, replacing statements that are self-defeating with the self-affirming.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician at PrimeCare Medical. His Healthwise column appears regularly in the Burnaby Now and his internet radio show, Positive Potential Medicine can be heard on pwrnradio.com.

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About Davidicus Wong

I am a family physician. I write a weekly newspaper column, Healthwise for the Vancouver Courier, Burnaby Now, Royal City Record and Richmond News.
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