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Meditation Technique to Reduce Stress

by Claude
(Birmingham Alabama)

I learned a breathing meditation through the Art of Living folks. At the time, I was going through an extremely stressful patch in my life, and was casting about for anything that might help. I was always anxious, my heart rate bursting unexpectedly upward at the slightest thing – an email from someone whose work I was procrastinating on, even the work itself – what if I couldn't do it? What if I did it wrong? What if I thought I did it right, only to discover too late that I had done it wrong, that my failure was irrevocable, that I had ruined everything?

I had trouble sleeping. I cried a lot. Sometimes I would just check out mentally, staring out the window, and hours would pass in a weirdly intense yet useless loop of stress. Summary: Things were bad. A friend suggested I take a class at Art of Living. It was a little pricey, but I was ready for anything. The breathing exercises consisted of different hand and body positions, and different rates and depth of breath – from loooooooooong, deep breaths to swift little ones that came in flurries.

Each sequence of breathing alternated through several of these different types of breath techniques. During the meditation itself, my focus was always on the breathing – keeping the rhythm, making sure I didn't skip anything, trying to get to the point where it was automatic.

In that way, it was an excellent loss of self – I was so focused on my body and my breathing and the moment that there wasn't time to kick into an anxiety loop about some potential catastrophe. Afterward I always felt much calmer. I know some people say that breathing meditation works primarily because it over-oxygenates your blood, essentially giving you a temporary high. I don't know if they're right, or if there is more to it – but I do know it worked.

I would be calm for hours afterward, and even after the tangible effects faded, I was still less likely to panic for the rest of the day. I felt cleansed.

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