Jo Kaye, one of our wonderful coaches, shares her reflections on She Leads Change and her three step breathing space, which she brought to a recent session on self on our Open Programme.

When I first heard about She Leads Change I was both intrigued and inspired.  My immediate thought was: ‘how can I be involved and support it!’ I was delighted to be invited to be a coach on the She Leads Change Springboard panel with so many other inspirational women and men.

I was fortunate enough to go along to the second session of the current group which was focusing on ‘Self’ so I could see She Leads Change in action.  When I walked into the room I was hit by a wall of sound with everyone seemingly old friends.  The atmosphere was electric, and people appeared to be hugely engaged and involved.  I was impressed by the depth of the practices that were introduced, they were deeply enquiring and challenging but within a safe and held environment. 

By the time it was my turn to speak, I decided to keep it simple and practical and offered my all time favourite tool to use when we are feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, tight or just emotional in some way.  As someone who teaches mindfulness to adults – from corporates, to couples to individuals to groups I know that this practice works.  The three step breathing space can be the first step in responding wisely, rather than simply reacting. It provides a way to step out of automatic- pilot mode when dealing with difficulties, and to reconnect with the present moment and our own innate wisdom. And I would love to share it here.

1. Awareness

Bring yourself into the present moment by becoming aware of areas of contact in the body (i.e. the floor, the chair) If possible, close your eyes.

Then bring the focus of awareness to your inner experience and ask:  “What is my experience right now…in thoughts…feelings..emotions…and in bodily sensations?”

It may be helpful to put experiences into words e.g. say in your mind, “A feeling of anger is arising” or… “Self-critical thoughts are here.” As best you can, fully register and acknowledge your experience, even if it is unwanted. Stay with them for a few moments.

2. Gathering Attention

Gently gather and redirect your full attention to the breath. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out.  Perhaps noting, at the back of your mind: “Breathing in… Breathing out…” or counting: “Inhaling, one…Exhaling, one; Inhaling, two…etc.”

Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

3. Expanding Awareness

Allow the field of your awareness to expand around your breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, including, especially, any sense of discomfort, tension, or resistance. If these sensations are there, then take your awareness there by “breathing in to them” on the in-breath. Then, breathe out from those sensations, softening and opening with the out-breath. Say to yourself on the out-breath “Right now, its like this”.

Maintaining a sense of the space within us and around us, as best we can holding everything in awareness; to whatever extent we can, we then bring this quality of expanded awareness to the next moments of our day.

This practice can be used when we are feeling upset or anxious, or just before we are about to do something challenging for instance, or even just to check into ourselves during the day. 

Why not give it a try and see what happens?

You can find more of Jo’s breathing exercises here. If you Interested in our Open Programme? We will be publishing the Spring 2020 dates soon, you can register your interest here and we will make sure you are the first to know!