The Healing Breath

By on September 10th, 2014 Categories: Day-to-Day Matters

Spend a minute or so becoming aware of your breath coming into your body and going back out.

Is it slow and calm? Or is it fast and frantic? Is it in-between? The breath is with you all of the time; it’s easy to take it for granted. Maybe you only notice it when you are out of breath, when it is hard to catch the next breath. Or, you notice it when you are afraid or anxious, a time when you might hold your breath. We give so little attention to what keeps us alive. Maybe by paying attention to the breath even for a minute, you will notice it more often.

The breath is an important tool for the balance and harmony of physical health. Using the breath to relieve stress — a cause of or ingredient in many illnesses — is a powerful practice for well-being. For thousands of years, paying attention to the breath has played an integral role in meditation and yoga practices.

In my book, Writing and Healing: A Mindful Guide for Cancer Survivors, we use the breath for healing. The suggestions “BREATHE IN” “BREATHE OUT” runs through the meditation in each of the sessions. At the end of the sessions, and particularly after session two, participants are aware of their breath and how to use it for healing.

You might try this:

Find a quiet place. Sit in stillness for 1-3 or 3-5 minutes — or longer, depending on your experience and comfort with the practice. As you sit, follow your breath as it moves in and out of your chest and abdomen. Breathe in. Breathe out. Don’t try to change it. Just follow it. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Do this for 3 days this week.

As well, put the words “Be Still — Breathe” on a notecard, and carry it around in your pocket to remind you that you can be aware of your breath anywhere — in the market, waiting for a bus, or at a traffic light.

Then, after the week, leave comments for me. How was this experience for you?

Pamela Post-Ferrante is a cancer survivor, writer, teacher, and workshop leader. She taught in Lesley University’s Graduate School of Expressive Therapies from 2003–2011 and leads sessions privately and in Boston-area hospitals for cancer survivors. She has been published in several books, magazines, journals, and heard on NPR. She wrote Writing and Healing: A Mindful Guide for Cancer Survivors to help others. Learn more about Pamela, her book, and starting your own writing group at or on her Facebook page.

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