How does change start to take place? For me, it was first recognizing the behaviors I didn’t like and desperately wanted to modify. I recall waking up many mornings thinking “ok… today is going to be a better day”. But each day didn’t bring the change I was hoping for. It brought more of the same. I didn’t know how to change the behaviors such as stubbornness, annoyance and self-criticism that were so ingrained in the wiring of my brain, nervous system and consciousness. I was subject to the automatic and repetitive nature of daily actions called habits. Think of all the habits we have which function on autopilot each day. Habits are routines, like how you get out of bed each morning or the direction you (always) drive to work. Habits are tendencies but what’s interesting is the way we think is also a tendency. Habitual thinking patterns about how we perceive and react to the world around us develops into a habit as well. I had no idea that this was occurring everyday – all day – until I experienced something new. No thought.
My thinking pattern was an habit therefore I didn’t realize it was action that could be modified. I never really considered this before until I started to see something change in my thought pattern toward myself. The first time I experienced the cessation of thought was practicing yoga. I felt a glimpse of “no thought” and this was a turning point. What I have found since practicing yoga for years is that it’s not necessary to move your body (in yoga postures) for thoughts to slow. It can happen through something that we all do every day – breathing.
Take a moment now to simply sit. Sit upright so that the spine is long yet the body isn’t ridged. Take a few moments to feel your body from crown of the head to tips of the toes. Let your hands rest, palms face down, on the thighs. Relax the shoulders away from the ears. Invite your body feel its own weight or heaviness. Shut the eyes down (if it’s appropriate) and take a long breath in through the nose, open the mouth and exhale the breath out slowly. Practice this breath 7 more times and let the exhale become longer and body more relaxed with each outgoing breath. Sit for 1 minute. Notice how you feel. Do you remember what you were thinking about before the breathing exercise? Probably not but if you do perhaps it doesn’t matter as much.
Take 5 minutes to practice 8 rounds of active breathing daily. Give it a go, what do you have to lose except some tension in the upper back and judgement in the mind.