Being Square

I am getting ready to teach mindfulness again. In DBT it is often referred to as core mindfulness because it is the basic skill in the program. Sine qua non – without this nothing.

Mindfulness is learning to be in control of your attention process. It involves what you pay attention to and how long you pay attention to it.

When my vision got bad in February I thought of little else but not being able to see. That was my focus. It was hard to take care of myself and calm myself down because I kept coming back to “I can’t see!” I suspect some of you have been there. That thought was not overly helpful and I really had to get away from it.

I was driving myself crazy over a situation I could not change!

Mindfulness is not easy, however. My mind bounces around like a ball in a pinball machine to use an old fashion simile. And this is with ten years of yoga under my belt. I say that because I don’t want anyone to get discouraged because they cannot go into a yogi trance the first or second time they try. Mindfulness is not a trance anyway. Again, it is focus.

So how did I get my mind off my vision? By putting it somewhere else. In the case of this ‘lesson’ (getting ready to teach, ya know) that somewhere else is the breath.

Square breathing
Square breathing: Breathe in 1-2-3-4 Hold your breath 1-2-3-4 Breathe out 1-2-3-4 Hold your breath 1-2-3-4

I already talked about square breathing. Square, or four-part, breathing is a perennial favorite. Make sure your breath is slow and deep. Believe it or not there is actually a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to breath. You want to belly breath. This means pulling down the diaphragm and pushing out your abdomen. Short, rapid breathing in your chest is a no no. That makes you more anxious.

As you breath you can try stretching out your exhales. Add a sigh like you might make just as you fall asleep. It doesn’t matter if you really don’t feel that relaxed. It is part of a feedback loop and you really can fake out your body and mind to believe you are much more relaxed than you are.

Other than four-part breathing you can try alternate nostril breathing. Some days I like that better because it has the added attention demand of keeping your fingers going in the right way!

No matter what you do to become mindful, remember mindfulness is HARD. Every time you go off focus kindly, lovingly, patiently and non-judgmentally put yourself back on. Note the stray thoughts. “Stray thought there”. Then let them go.

Lastly, remember to practice daily. A skill has to be well learned if you are going to be able to use it when distressed.

I have a few other topics to cover in the next few pages. However, since I am teaching mindfulness for the next three months I will probably keep coming back to the topic. Hope that is OK. I find it useful and I suspect you might as well.




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2 thoughts on “Being Square”

  1. Love your way of teaching this. Hope you go into the next step of staying in the moment as
    Practicing mindfulness.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Sue’s written so much it’s hard to remember what she’s covered! Check out her page Soothe Thyself which was published a few months ago. She’ll be writing about it again soon, too.

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