Healing Anxiety

In my work with my clients, I use a tool that I learned long ago from my teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. It is called “Three Breaths.” It is a way to stop thinking for a moment, stop worrying, stop ruminating, and to have a refreshing moment of peace, of solidity, of feeling that we have some control of our thoughts and the suffering they cause us. This tool, this practice, is very simple yet extremely powerful. Try it if you have anxiety or panic, or if you are upset or stressed. You will feel better right away.

Sit or stand in a comfortable position, back straight, feet flat on the floor, shoulders down. Turn your attention to your breath. You don’t have to do anything differently with your breath, just notice it and follow it. Here I am breathing in. Here I am breathing out. Try to keep you attention on your breath, following the air as it comes in through your nose, down into your chest, causing your ribs to expand. Try to keep you attention on it until it ‘turns around’ and becomes an out-breath, and follow the air all the way out. Stay focused until it becomes an in-breath again, and follow the air with your attention, all the way in, until it becomes an out-breath again.

Try to keep your attention on your breath for three full in-out cycles. Try to relax and enjoy your breathing. Let go of any tension you feel in your body and let it exit with the out-breath. Relax and make space for the in-breath. When thoughts arise just let them go, like bubbles carried on the wind, and turn your attention back to your breath. Try to smile a little bit if you can – don’t take yourself so seriously! In, out, letting go. In, out, dwelling in the here and now. In, out, a refreshing break from our distressing thoughts, a welcome change in the soundtrack of our mind.