In Step 1 of “The Breathing Space”, becoming aware of the present moment in its fullness.
By deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture.
Whether sitting or standing.
Allowing your eyes to close if that is possible or appropriate at this moment.
Otherwise, keeping them open.
And in either case, resting in an awareness of your experience.
Opening to it and asking “What is my experience, right now”
“What thoughts are going through the mind.
As best as you can, noting thoughts as mental events.
Perhaps even becoming aware of their contents in words.
“What feelings are here?
Turning towards an opening towards any discomfort or unpleasant feelings.
“What body sensations are here right now??”
Perhaps quickly scanning the body to pick up any sensations or tightness
Now in “Step 2”, gathering and redirecting your attention to focus on the physical sensations of the breath.
Just breathing itself.
Moving in close to the sense of the breath in the belly.
Feeling the sensations in the abdominal wall.
As it expands with each in-breath and falls back with each out-breath.
With full awareness — following the breath, all the way in, and all the way out.
Using the breathing itself to anchor yourself into the present moment.
And now in “Step 3”, expanding the field of awareness around your breathing so that in addition to the sensations of the breath it includes the body as a whole.
Your posture, and your facial expressions.
How they feel from the inside.
if you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, or resistance, experimenting gently with breathing into them on the in-breath, and breathing out from them on the out-breath.
Perhaps feeling a softening and releasing with each out-breath.
If you care to, perhaps saying to yourself on the out-breath, “it’s already here. whatever it is, it’s already here. let me feel it.”
And now, as best you can, bringing this expanded, more spacious and accepting awareness to the next moments of your day.
Whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
As it continues to unfold.
Sharon Salzberg knows suffering. At age nine, she was dressed in her Halloween ballerina costume, watching Nat King Cole on television, when something went horribly wrong. Her mother started bleeding violently and was whisked away amid the panic of flashing ambulance lights. That was the last time Salzberg saw her mother, who died two weeks later.
Salzberg was sent to live with her grandparents, and when she was eleven her estranged father appeared—a troubled, dishevelled stranger who told her, “You have to be tough to survive life.” Six weeks later, he overdosed on sleeping pills, and for the second time, Salzberg watched her parent being rushed away by ambulance. Her father was never to function outside of the mental health system again.
The adults in her life never talked about loss or grief, and Salzberg learned that silence meant safety. Little did Salzberg know that someday, plunging into the heart of her suffering would be her greatest teacher—and make her the renowned Buddhist teacher she is today.
— Lindsay Kyte in Lion’s Roar
So what exactly is going on in the 3MBS. At one level, if you’re in the middle of an automatic, or multitasking moment, there is a place that you can move your mind to that allows you to step out of these routines and the the demands they place on our attention. Simply sitting down and allowing your attention to move in these different ways can be quite beneficial throughout the day.
But what exactly is going on with our attention? The 3MBS as we’ve designed it really is a lot about moving attention in specific ways to help us free ourselves or to get unstuck from some of these automatic routines.
In the space of about 3 minutes we go from wide, to narrow, to wide again.
This happens in the configuration, if you will of an hourglass, which can be seen as having a wide opening, a very narrow neck, and a wide base.
These are metaphors to describe the movement of attention. And the movement of attention is one of the things that I believe is really helpful about the 3MBS. Because when we’re caught in multitasking, or automatic routines, often our attention is not really available to us, and it’s not really being guided or directed by our intentionality.
So, these are some of the speculations, my own ideas, about how to 3MBS is helpful. The important thing is that if you do find it helpful just continue to practice it and figure out, maybe from the inside, how it continues to bring value and grounding in your own life.
We designed the 3-Minute Breathing Space as a practice for approaching experience from two attentional lenses, both narrow and wide.
There are three steps to the practice:
- Attend to what is. The first step invites attending broadly to one’s experience, noting it, but without the need to change what is being observed.
- Focus on the breath. The second step narrows the field of attention to a single, pointed focus on the breath in the body.
- Attend to the body. The third step widens attention again to include the body as a whole and any sensations that are present.
We wanted to create a sort of choreography of awareness that emphasized shifting attention, checking in, and moving on. Accordingly, each step of the Three-Minute Breathing Space is roughly one minute in length. Perhaps because of this flexibility and real-world focus, the Three-Minute Breathing Space is one of the most durable practices utilized by participants well after MBCT has ended.
There really is so much to be thankful for.
I am grateful to my friends. For their good qualities, for the good things they have done for me. For the ways they are fun, for the good times we’ve had.
I am grateful for my children – if I have any – for the delight and love they bring, for the sweet smell of their hair and the soft touch of their skin. For the first time they smiled at me or walked into my arms. For the meaning they bring to life. For receiving my love and lessons. For being their own persons, for giving me their own love and lessons. Having them at all is a miracle, and the rest is details.
I appreciate myself. For the love I have given to others, for all the conversations had, for all the helpful acts toward others, for all the dishes done. For the long hours I’ve worked, the hoops I’ve jumped through to keep all those balls up in the air. For the efforts I’ve made, the many times I’ve stayed patient, the many times I’ve found more to give inside when I thought I was empty.
I appreciate my lovers and mates, past and present. I can focus on one of these persons, perhaps my spouse or mate if I’m currently in a relationship, and bring to mind the ways he or she has been good to me. I appreciate the fun we’ve had together, the humor and the companionship. I feel grateful for the times of support, understanding, and sympathy. For sweating and suffering too.
I feel thankful for the life I’ve already had, for the good parts of my childhood, for everything I’ve learned, for good friends and beautiful sights. For the roof over my head and the bread on my table, for being able to have a life that is healthier, longer, and freer than most people have ever dreamed of. For this beautiful world, where each breath is a gift of air, each dawn a gift of light. For the plants and animals that die so I may live. For the extraordinary gifts of evolution I carry in each cell of my body, for the capabilities accumulated during three and a half billion years of life’s presence on our planet.
I feel thankful for the wonder of the universe, for all the atoms in my body—the carbon in my bones, the oxygen and iron in my blood—that were born in the heart of a star billions of years ago, to drift through space, to form a sun and planets, to form the hand that holds this piece of paper and the eye that reads this word.
I feel thankful for all that was in order for me to be. For grace, for wisdom, for the sacred, for spirit as I know it. For this moment, this breath, this sight. For every good thing that was, that is, that ever will be.
— from Rick Hanson, A Meditation on Gratitude
So before you begin eating, just take a moment to consider where your food has come from.
Where it was grown?
Where it was prepared?
Maybe where it has travelled from.
Just pausing — looking at the food.
And then picking the food up.
Taking the moment to smell the food.
To engage in the physical senses.
As you smell the food, what does it remind you of.
Does it take you to a particular place?
And then putting it the mouth.
Not chewing it as fast as possible — but just moving it around the mouth.
Noticing the taste, the flavors.
Savoring each and every moment.
I will now show you the main points of Shaolin meditation.
Close your eyes and focus them on the nose.
The thoughts concentrate inwards — toward the heart.
Remove all unnecessary thought.
And think of nothing.
Connect both hands with one another
Mind and body become very calm.
Meditation has many advantages.
One can access the inner harmony.
Let the thoughts travel to your stomach.
The tongue should be resting against the palette.
Breathe in and out naturally.
Let the shoulders sink down.
Five surfaces should be facing upward.
The soles of your feet. Both palms of the hands. And the imaginary inner surface of the heart.
So begin with just a śamatha vipassana.
Begin with just — listen to the gong and let your mind rest in this sense of openness and stillness.
Begin to breathe in. Completely and fully.
Taking in dark, heavy, hot feeling of claustrophobia.
Just taking it completely into your being.
Breathing out — light, cool, and refreshing.
Radiating it out throughout this whole room.
Across the mountains.
Letting it dissolve out all over the world.
And breathing in and out again.
Dark, heavy and hot.
Taking it in completely.
Breathing out light, cool, and refreshing.
Radiating it out.
Do this until it really feels synchronized with the breath.
Heaviness, darkness coming in.
The freshness, lightness going out.
Take a very deep in-breath.
Relax —- an expansive out-breath.
Opening your being to the dark, and heavy, and painful — as you breathe in.
Just open to it as you breath in.
Then just let go and send out a sense of freshness, light.
Then when you feel ready, move onto a very real situation
Begin to do Tonglen for another person.
Suggesting that you do it for someone very close to you.
Particularly a family member.
Breathing in — with the wish that they be free of suffering — and sending them out — the wish that they have happiness and whatever would make them happy.
Breathing in— with the wish that they be free of suffering — taking in their suffering — sending out the sense of relief, spaciousness, happiness to them.
And then as soon as possible
Extend that further to all the people who are in the same situation as your family member.
If something gets in the way and this isn’t possible.
Keep this practice real by just shifting the attention and doing Tonglen with the feeling that’s blocking you.
And just breathe that in and own that feeling completely for yourself and all the other people in the same boat as you.
And breathe out relief for yourself and all the others.
Have a feeling of completely opening your heart and mind when you breathe in.
There’s no place for anything to get stuck.
You just open so wide as you breathe in that there’s no place for anything to get stuck.
And then just send that same openness outward.
Send it out to them.
Say this person’s name.
Visualize their face if that helps to make it more real and bring up the feelings more strongly.
When you hear this gong then slowly move back tośamatha vipassana,