Mindful breathing is slow, steady, and deep (as opposed to the breathing of the AB- Automatic Brain, which is rapid and shallow).
You can do it without being noticed, in public and around people. Initially, though, I suggest practicing it in privacy. Breathe through your nose and out through either your mouth or nose.
For the purpose of establishing the right habit, I suggest breathing out through your mouth, at first.
Here’s a step-by-step suggestion of this procedure:
- Sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet room.
- Gently close your eyes.
- Push out your abdomen. This will draw air in by engaging the diaphragm muscles.
- As you draw air in, be conscious not to sniff. The breath should come from the back of your throat and sound grumbling, almost like a snore.
- If that’s too difficult at first, instead start by drawing in the air through your nose. The steadiness of your breathing is more important than whether you draw in from the back of your throat.
- As your abdomen expands, follow it by the expansion of the sides of your chest.
- Picture in your mind the air moving in through your nose, through your windpipe (trachea), and into the outer reaches of your lungs. Picture your chest expanding, and more importantly, your upper back filling out completely, as though it is a balloon being inflated to its maximum potential.
- When you reach the peak of each breath, let your lungs deflate naturally, but control your breath as it leaves through your mouth.
Let the air move slowly as though the balloon has sprung a small leak. Listen to it as it makes a gentle wind sound.
The exhaling should take at least twice as long as the inhaling.
The more air you expel, the more your lungs will automatically refill. The more void you leave in your lungs by exhaling, the more space that you can fill with clean, fresh, crisp, life-giving air.
In a sense, as you learn to control the automatic brain by emptying it, you make more room to expand your mind.
One thing you may notice when you try this exercise.
You may feel as though you can’t finish your breath, as though it stops short before it feels deep and satisfying.
I suggest that as you take this breath, you picture in your mind your bright smiling face. You may have a photo of this. I on my computer desktop I have a photo of my wife and I with big bright smiles.
As I take in my deep breath, I make sure this is the image I see in my mind.
For you must understand, this breathing is contrary to the programming of the automatic brain, which is fast and shallow in order to help your fight or flee.
This slow, deep breathing is enough to trigger the AB. The image of your smiling face interrupts this effect and essentially slows or plugs the brain drain.
Once you have mastered this technique, you can use it in front of people without their being aware. Of course, your eyes will not close and your inspiration and expiration may not be so long and loud; nonetheless, you will be able to suck in deep relaxing breaths and release longer cleansing breaths.
I often use this tactic when I have to deal with my children’s bickering. When they were younger, they recall me saying, “Daddy’s going to take a time out.”
To control the automatic brain, the reactive anger (my fight) I may have felt toward their fighting, I would depart for a minute or two to another room and focus on my breathing. When I returned, I was in a much better frame of mind to deal with my kids.
Breathing must be the initial focus in controlling brain drain.
I view our mind as the portal to the divine nature in all of us, and meditation is the vehicle. Through this effort to connect with our mind, I believe we gain a sense of peace and a feeling that we actually can create our future and attain our true desires. This is the place where the law of attraction is the dominant rule.
If you’ve never meditated, trying to do it twice a day is unreasonable. Even for those who have mastered it, daily meditation may not be practical. Not to start the process at all, though, is like being given the answer to your greatest problem and rejecting it. I have experienced it myself, and I’ve talked to many others who have themselves experienced the benefits of meditation.
When you relax into meditation, the automatic brain goes into overdrive and conjures up many blocking thoughts to prevent it.
Why would it act this way?
Because the act of relaxation and meditation leaves you vulnerable to attack. The AB doesn’t care that the likelihood of being attacked while meditating is negligible. It is binary – on or off, black or white. The AB simply reverts to the primitive survival patterns.
We need to recognize, though, that the distracting thoughts that creep into our brain as we relax into meditation are irrelevant and fraudulent. Do not engage them by stringing thoughts together.
For example, if you face a busy day at work—deadlines, presentations, paperwork, phone calls, bills due—your brain is likely to resist meditation as the worst possible way to prepare for the coming battles. But persist; meditate.
As you carve out, say, ten minutes, do not fight the contrary thoughts as they come into your mind. Acknowledge that your AB is trying to protect you (falsely) and realize that you have evolved normally as a thinking human. That is, your brain is working the way it was programmed.
Whatever the thoughts may be, and as crazy as they may seem (and I mean certifiably crazy), does not matter. What matters is that you should not be ambushed by the automatic brain, which will do whatever it takes to prevent you from getting into the ‘vulnerable’ position of meditation.
This, of course, hinges on belief.
When the thoughts start coming, it is essential for you not to believe them at all.
Not even a slight amount. Since once you believe, for instance, that you must take care of an item on your to-do list right away, the more you try to stop the thoughts the more they will come, all related to that list and more lists and whatever seemingly crazy association with any item on your list that may have nothing to do with anything.
When you decide to take the time to meditate, you must believe in this activity 100 percent. If you have doubt that you should be taking time doing it, you are removing the finger from the dike and eventually your mind will be flooded with the turbulence of the AB, sabotaging your efforts to connect with your mind, and realize its innate power.
So how do you get there?
- Find a quiet room with the lights low or off.
- If possible, kneel on the floor, resting on your calves with your heels touching your butt, hands on thighs tilted slightly inward, sitting up high. If this position is more than you want to tackle for now, a comfortable chair will suffice.
- Close your eyes.
- Begin taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth as described earlier.
- Direct your mind’s eye on the flow of air in and out.
- The only thing that exists is your breath.
- You are present, in the moment.
- As you breathe, visualize every atom of stressful waste products washing away with your exhaled breath.
- After several cycles, begin contracting individual muscle groups with inhalation and relaxing them as you exhale.
- Start with your toes, then calves, then thighs, then butt, then low back, etc…, finishing with your scalp muscles.
- Once this is finished, visualize yourself walking into an elevator.
- See the elevator doors close and with each inhale/exhale cycle, watch the floor indicator go further down into the sub-basements.
- Go down about 10 levels.
- When you reach the tenth sub-level, watch the doors open. What do you see? This is your place of serenity—this is the garden of your mind. Imagine yourself talking to yourself there or to whoever or whatever greets you.
- Agree that together you can face any situation with calm energy.
- After a few moments, say goodbye but believe that the power of your mind will be with you during all moments, not just during meditation.
- Get back in the elevator and go slowly up.
- Continue the inhale/exhale cycles, the latter longer than the former.
- When you get off the elevator, continue a few more cycles and then gently open your eyes.
During meditation, it is important to see yourself as the person you want to be.
Everything that happens during meditation is in the present moment. Your brain may wander into the past or future, but do not be mistaken—this wandering is the normal behavior of your protective AB. Even in the domain of your mind, it may appear. Just do not believe, trust, or take direction from it.
Your own meditation does not necessarily have to take this form. The essential components, though, of any type of meditation are control of breathing, focus, visualization, and being in the moment. Within these criteria, many variations can serve as meditative practices.
Exercise, for example, is an activity that lends itself to meditation. Some of my greatest inspiration has come during a run. I no longer run marathons, but I recall that during training, when I was at the end of a long run and approached a hill I needed to climb, I would get a twinge of nervousness (my AB was alive).
My strategy was to focus on the path in front of me, every step.
That would guide me up the hill despite the warning signals from my automatic brain. Even as I run much shorter distances today, toward the end, when I see how much farther I have to run, I tend to get breathless. But when I focus on the path directly in front of me, my endurance seems endless—the end actually exists in each step.
To elaborate the concept of creating a future by visualizing in the moment, I turn to a tennis player who competed in the 2007 US Open.
Before each serve, she closed her eyes briefly. Asked later what she was doing, she replied, “I was visualizing an ace.” Not all players close their eyes, but you can be certain that the most successful players as they toss the ball are seeing an ace, at that moment, before it happens.
The goal of a service ace is not the only place for visualization. Martial artists see their hand passing through a brick as they are punching. As they kick, they see the other side. The moment predicts the future and is the future. These are examples of moving meditation and examples of the mind moving unobstructed by the automatic brain. For as soon as the automatic brain shows itself, so does doubt.
Creating authentic results in the language of the automatic brain is the manifestation of our mind and begins the process that allows you to believe, trust, and take direction from your true nature.
The language of the automatic brain appears in the areas of money (which can secure food, clothing, and shelter for our survival), health (which can threaten our survival), and relationships (without love we can wither and die).
When we create things with the power of our mind, they become manifest in these areas.
Many people try to visualize exact things that they feel they need and want. For example, if they think an appearance on Oprah will bring them the greatest success, they may put a picture on the wall alongside Oprah. Or they may visualize themselves in a big house, or driving a big car, or walking down the aisle with a trophy wife.
All or none of the above may be what is right for you. But it is impossible for anyone of us to know exactly what is right for us.
To believe, trust, and take direction from the power of our mind, we must understand that what is right for us will come to us.
It will appear in the three areas above. In what form or shape or in what time frame though is not certain. But to make it happen, you must believe 100 percent (not 25 or 50 or 75 or 99.99 percent) that you will always find a way and a way will always find you.
A story I first read many years ago told by Joe Hyams in Zen in the Martial Arts illustrates the importance of mastering the moment to create a desirable future. I’ll paraphrase:
A 10-year-old boy wants to learn karate. He goes to a popular sensei (karate master) at a nearby dojo (school) and asks, “Sensei, how long will it take me to get my black belt?”
The Sensei replies, “Ten years, my son.”
Quizzically, the boy responds, “Ten years? If I train day and night, seven days a week, how long, then, will it take me?”
The Sensei looks into the boy’s eyes and replies, “Twenty years.”
Confused, the boy responds, “Even if I come to live in the dojo, make it my home, and train side by side with you and all the top instructors? How long, then, will it take?”
Now the Sensei looks deep into the boy’s eyes and says, “Thirty years.”
Disappointed and perplexed, the boy admits, “I don’t understand.”
The Sensei explains: “You see, my son, if you have one eye on your goal, you have only one eye on the path in which to find the way.”
Always having one eye on our future reveals the pesky and distracting nature of the AB; hence, its nature to sabotage the mind’s ability to attract into our lives everything that is right for us. When we focus on the present, we position ourselves to attract the future that will be right for us.
That is not to say that having a goal is not important, but simply that looking up that hill, as I did during marathon training, literally took my breath away. As I focused on my individual steps, I achieved success. When I began the process of writing this book, the idea of being where I am today, seemed mind-boggling. Focusing on writing in the moment created the goal. This is how we begin to understand how our mind works.
The moments that exist during your meditation help you realize that your moments are a more accurate gauge of your future than any fear induced automatic brain planning. Allowing your future to merge with the present creates your desired goal. Breathe, meditate, visualize, and understand that moments well-lived add up to a future of your dreams.
This article is an excerpt from Dr. Charles Glassman’s book: Brain Drain and has been published with the author’s permission.
About the author
Charles F. Glassman, MD, FACP, has practiced general internal medicine, for over 20 years, in Rockland County, NY, He has seen the shift of medical practices from patient focused to problem focused; from health care to sick care. Dr. Glassman specializes in personalized, patient focused care, with an emphasis on wellness and prevention.
As a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and Life Extension Foundation member, Dr. Glassman approaches medicine in an integrative manner, looking carefully at all traditionally approved methods while recognizing the power of unconventional therapies. He is excited to bring the same level of competence and open-mindedness to his new service, Coach MD.
Dr. Glassman has repeatedly earned National and Regional Top Doctor and Patient Choice Awards. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Brain Drain, which explores the mind, body, spirit connection in our lives. To new subscribers on his website, he is now offering his free, new EBook, Destiny Diet. Weekly, Dr. Glassman hosts Killer Health Care on Web Talk Radio.
To know more about Dr. Charles, visit his website www.charlesglassmanmd.com.