How To Handle Difficult Emotions Part 4: Mindful Breathing


How To Handle Difficult Emotions Part 4: Mindful Breathing

Creating Calm, Non-Judging Awareness


The primary focus in Mindfulness Meditation is the breathing. However, the primary goal is a calm, non-judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance.

  1. Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight.

  2. Direct your attention to your breathing.

  3. When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply accept them, giving them the space to come and go without judging or getting involved with them.

  4. When you notice that your attention has drifted off and becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that the attention has drifted, and then gently bring the attention back to your breathing.


It's ok and natural for thoughts to arise, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.


Allowing Thoughts and Feelings to Come and Go

The primary goal of mindful breathing is simply a calm, non- judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them.

  • Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight.

  • Bring your attention to your breathing.

  • Imagine that you have a balloon in your tummy. Every time you breathe in, the balloon inflates. Each time you breathe out, the balloon deflates. Notice the sensations in your abdomen as the balloon inflates and deflates. Your abdomen rising with the in-breath, and falling with the out-breath.

  • Thoughts will come into your mind, and that’s okay, because that’s just what the human mind does. Simply notice those thoughts, then bring your attention back to your breathing.

  • Likewise, you can notice sounds, physical feelings, and emotions, and again, just bring your attention back to your breathing.

  • You don’t have to follow those thoughts or feelings, don’t judge yourself for having them, or analyze them in any way. It’s okay for the thoughts to be there. Just notice those thoughts, and let them drift on by, bringing your attention back to your breathing.

  • Whenever you notice that your attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that the attention has drifted, and then gently bring the attention back to your breathing.

It's okay and natural for thoughts to enter into your awareness, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.


Breathing Meditation 1 (Kabat-Zinn)


Assume a comfortable posture lying on your back or sitting. If you are sitting, keep the spine straight and let your shoulders drop.


Close your eyes if it feels comfortable.


Bring your attention to your belly, feeling it rise or expand gently on the in-breath and fall or recede on the out-breath.


Keep your focus on the breathing, “being with” each in-breath for its full duration and with each out-breath for its full duration, as if you were riding the waves of your own breathing.


Every time you notice that your mind has wandered off the breath, notice what it was that took you away and then gently bring your attention back to your belly and the feeling of the breath coming in and out.


If your mind wanders away from the breath a thousand times, then your “job” is simply to bring it back to the breath every time, no matter what it becomes preoccupied with.


Practice this exercise for fifteen minutes at a convenient time every day, whether you feel like it or not, for one week and see how it feels to incorporate a disciplined meditation practice into your life. Be aware of how it feels to spend some time each day just being with your breath without having to do anything.


Breathing Meditation 2 (Kabat-Zinn)


Tune into your breathing at different times during the day, feeling the belly go through one or two risings and fallings.


Become aware of your thoughts and feelings at these moments, just observing them without judging them or yourself.


At the same time, be aware of any changes in the way you are seeing things and feeling about yourself.


Using mindfulness to cope with negative experiences (thoughts, feelings, events).


As we become more practiced at using mindfulness for breathing, body sensations and routine daily activities, so we can then learn to be mindful of our thoughts and feelings, to become observers, and subsequently more accepting. This results in less distressing feelings, and increases our level of functioning and ability to enjoy our lives.


* Check back next week for part 5!


Artwork by Michael Parkes

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