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Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

Week 661: Finding Breathing Space

Walking across Central Park after a light snow, I noticed that the dogs were energetically jumping into the snow, running in it at full tilt, and generally having an enthusiastically delightful time. It got me to thinking about how important it is to remember that each day is touched by a variety of different experiences and it also brought to mind the importance of orienting our attention to notice moments of ease and delight, moments characterized by something positive.

As a survival organ, our brains automatically orient to what’s out of place, what’s wrong, what needs our attention. We know that our brains naturally notice what’s negative, and there are times when we have to consciously and intentionally invite ourselves to notice what’s going on around us, or in us, that’s positive, to touch into a moment of breathing space. Watching the dogs reminded me to do that as I walked on through the park to my office.

For this week’s experiment, I invite you to play with taking some time each day to focus your awareness on something that offers either pleasure, delight, ease, or an experience of settling for a moment or two. There are many times, sitting in my office, when my eye falls on a photo of a lotus that hangs just across from me. Each time I look at it, my whole body settles and I rest in it for a few moments. It has become a touchstone for my internal sense of well-being and it just takes a moment of truly looking at it and letting myself be moved by it to shift into a more centered and settled internal state of being.

For most of us, even in terrible times, there are moments of connection with others, moments when something unexpectedly beautiful comes into awareness, flickers of something positive along the way. This doesn’t mean to deny things that are upsetting or that feel urgently threatening. Rather, it’s about finding a way to allow the bodymind to have a breath of fresh air, a moment of ease, a respite from ongoing stress.

As you explore this experiment, remember to bring curiosity along as your constant companion, as curiosity opens to the environment, whereas fear draws away from it. You can tell if you are aligned with curiosity by the degree of ease or tension in your body. If you feel tight, especially in your chest or shoulders, you might ask yourself what would happen if you shifted into curiosity. Also, remember that judgments are inevitable and the key thing is how you relate to them. Learning to notice them, “pat them on the head”, and allow them to move on through can help to stay focused in the present moment when you want to offer yourself some breathing space.

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