- Set a timer to go off in five minutes.
- Sit in a chair with my back straight and my hands in my lap.
- Close my eyes and focus on my breathing.
- When my mind wanders, don’t worry about it, but gently return my focus to my breathing.
Step 4 is the important one: They say each time you bring your focus back to your breath, that’s like “a biceps curl for your brain.”
A nice image, but what my brain was getting the first week was more like Zumba. I couldn’t go five seconds focusing on my breath. (I knew that I spent a lot of time in my own thoughts, but I hadn’t realized there was a fireworks show going on in there.) And then add to that the struggle over what counts as a “thought.” Obviously I’m allowed to hear a lawnmower in the distance, but if I attach the word “lawnmower” to it in my mind, is that a thought? How about feeling an emotion—say, triumph at focusing on my breathing for two whole breaths—is that a thought? How about thinking about whether the thought I just had counts as a thought? How about mentally blogging the experience while I’m having it? If we had another dog, what would we name it?
Another issue for me is that focusing on my breath makes it difficult to breathe—I can’t figure out what my normal rhythm is supposed to be and end up taking these unnatural, stuttering breaths. They say that’s normal and fine, that it’s a mind exercise, not a breathing exercise. But it’s tempting to stray away from the boring focus on breathing that makes me physically uncomfortable and just enjoy the fireworks.