We are made of light.

The sun sets and we feel sadness without realizing that we carry the sun inside of us.

When we breathe, we shine that light on our innermost selves. 

Today I’d like to share what it means to me to breathe mindfully.

To begin this practice, sit or lay in a way that’s most comfortable to you. Sometimes that may be cross legged on a cushion, or just in a chair, or it may be sprawled on your bed, palms up. The beauty of breathing is that we can do it any way and at any time because it is necessary for life. 

You may be questioning why we’re talking about the breath when it’s something that we do regularly without thinking about it. I’d like to pose the thought that this is exactly why we should be doing it mindfully. How many actions do you carry out through your day without paying attention to them, without appreciating their full weight and necessity? The breath is the foundation of life, and so to learning to breathe with mindfulness will make practicing mindfulness in all of our other practices much easier.

When you’re in your comfy position, close your eyes and take a few breaths. 

As you inhale, say to yourself, “breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in.” On the exhale, “Breathing out, I am aware that I am breathing out.” Or simplify it, “Inhale. Exhale. In. Out.” 

Notice the quality of the breath. Is it short? Long? Either way, that’s okay. We are not here to judge ourselves or judge our breaths. There is no “right” breath. There is simply breath. As you notice the quality of your breathing, imagine holding a stone in the palm of your hand, and of examining its quality. Do you judge the stone as good or bad? No, you simply look.

As you notice the quality of breath, I invite you also to notice where in your body you feel those breaths the most. Do you feel the rise and fall of your belly as they swirl around in there? Or do they get stuck in your throat or chest? Mine often do. Again, that’s okay. Right now we’re just watching. 

Now, on the next in breath, imagine the flow spilling through every tiny crack in our being. Imagine the light gently flowing deeper with each inhale, through your arms, elbows, the tips of your fingers, and down through your clavicle, your sternum, your diaphragm, your belly, your knees, and into the ground beneath you. With each exhale, imagine the light coursing back the way it came, flowing out through your mouth.

As the breath deepens, you may notice the light deepening, reaching through deeper parts of your body. Take note of where you feel the breath with each sequence. You may find that when you acknowledge that breath, and where it falls in your body, it begins to deepen as it becomes more comfortable, begins to trust you. This is you. This is evidence of you beginning to trust yourself. Abide in that sensation.

When you open your eyes, notice the room around you. Does it feel different than it did when you closed your eyes? If not, that’s okay. It’s not necessary. Just notice how you feel.

As you go about your day, carry that sensation of the breath sinking into you. When you begin to feel your breath get lodged in your collarbone, remember this exercise. Come back here whenever you need grounding, or practice it as a ritual to start your day with mindfulness and intention. 

The beauty of breath as medicine is that it is available to you always, at any time, and any place.

As always, feel free to share your experience with these mindful breaths in the comments below or in an email to hello@tenderheart.studio.

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On Presence

We are on a deep quest for self knowledge and freedom. It begins with presence.

At the beginning of self-inquiry we are tempted to explain, to judge, to find out why this brain of ours works the way it does. This is the stuff of suffering. The ravenous grasping of information threatens to detach us from ourselves and our own inherent peace, and mindfulness meditation strips away those tendencies. It’s about shedding the layers of knowledge and judgment through gentle observation. What’s left is our true nature.

When we speak of shedding knowledge, it is not the same as becoming dumb, or becoming ignorant to the laws that hold our universe together. It is ridding ourselves of the assumptions and identifications that limit us and limit our view of the world. It is doubt. It is letting go. It is surrendering to the deep truth that we hold like a flame in our hearts, that makes itself apparent only when we commit to showing up new every single day.

This surrender is the most gentle and loving way of knowing ourselves, of accepting ourselves, of seeing ourselves. And once we experience the grace of seeing ourselves – our true selves, not the “I” that we identify with but our deepest, truest being and suchness – only then are we able to do the same for another.

When I am no longer “I”, you are no longer “you.” For there to be an other, there must be a self; when we no longer identify as self, we can no longer identify other. Therein lies the truth, and we become one. The truth is in the grey. 

So why presence? 

When we begin to live presently, showing up moment to moment as the world presents itself to us, our facade falls away. We cease all the tugging that shreds what we love and release the tension between ourselves and the outer world. 

This release of tension is what allows us connection to each other. Presence gives way to all other Tenderheart values: authenticity, vulnerability, communication, connection, compassion, growth, and ease, all of which I will discuss in future posts and focus entirely on in the coming months. What’s more, when we cultivate presence, we can “shine light” on our bodies, minds, and hearts, and the bodies, minds and hearts of our loved ones, to determine the best course of action and give our loved ones the generous gift of being seen.

We will begin cultivating presence by practicing mindfulness – tapping into the breath to become aware of our bodies, then expanding outward to become aware of the sensations all around us, until eventually, with practice, we become compassionately aware and connected to the entirety of humanity and nature. 

This practice has been crucial to my own becoming and unbecoming, my own cycles of growth. I hope it will help you, as well.

As you move through your week, try to take stock of the times you feel most present and aware. I know it may be difficult at first, but I promise, you know when you feel it. It may come as a sensation of zooming in, or alternatively, zooming out and feeling expansion in your body and mind. It may come as a deep centeredness and self-assuredness.

Take note of what that sensation feels like, and feel free to share in the comments below or in an email at hello@tenderheart.studio.

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