The Contemplative is our Teacher

‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ 

When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”

                                                               -The Buddha

For over 25 years I have been using diaphragmatic breathing to reduce anxiety and release and relieve my own personal stress, so I love to share with my clients.  It has also been a helpful tool for many of my clients in psychotherapy and coaching and yet others have opted out for various reasons. Whether you are someone who already passed on breath work in the past, there is no harm in trying it out again with the attitude of beginners mind. Beginners mind makes no assumptions, holds no preconceived notions, it is a way of testing something in the present moment for its usefulness, Diaphragmatic breathing is a return to our natural belly breathing, where we are expanding our belly on the inbreathe-drawing the breath down deep and then releasing the breath by contracting the belly. This is usually done at a slow pace- in through the nose- and to slow down the exhale you can purse the lips and ….slowly ….release the breath through the mouth.  I love it! A few deep belly breaths can help reset my breathing pattern, release tension, and restore the much needed oxygen to my body.

Later in my life I began my journey to develop a meditation practice and discovered that starting with some deep belly breaths helped to center me and that using my breath as a home base for attention started to feel like a familiar and safe place.  The breath became a place I could return to and rebuild a sense of comfort and calm, even in turbulent times because I practiced deep breathing and established a strong relaxation response with repeated practice. It felt natural for me to use the breath in meditation when ever my mind or body was agitated, anxious, in pain or discomfort, and even sleepy.  The breath became a primary teacher. Now it is a tool I carry with me on the journey of life and here I share one I use in daily life-  A Five-Minute Breathing Space , which can be utilized either at the beginning of formal meditation, as a brief midday meditation, or in a moment of distress. But don’t just believe me, try it yourself and decide!
The Five-Minute Breathing Space (adapted from the Three-Minute Breathing Space found in The Mindful Way Through Depression) is a simple 3-step exercise to help you return to your center.
Begin by deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture, whether you are sitting or standing.  If possible, close your eyes.  Then, brining your awareness to your inner experience, ask: What is my experience right now?

  • What thoughts are going through the mind?  As best you can, acknowledging thoughts as mental events, perhaps putting them into words.
  • What feelings are here? Turning toward any sense of emotional discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging their presence.
  • What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scanning the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing.

Then redirect your attention to focus on the physical sensations of the breath breathing itself.
Move in close to the sense of the breath in the belly…feeling the sensations of the belly wall expanding as the breath comes in…and falling back as the breath goes out.
Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out, using the breathing to anchor yourself in the present.
Now expand the field of your awareness around your breathing so that, in addition to the sensations of the breath, it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression.
If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, or resistance, zero in on them by breathing into them on each in-breath and breathing out from them on each out-breath as you soften and open.  If you want to, you might say to yourself on the out-breath, “It’s okay…whatever it is, it’s already here: let me feel it.”

Try it Out: The Five Minute breathing space on our website.

If you triy this out and have any comments please email me at or respond on the facebook quote post.

May your breath be long, strong, and ever flowing,

Patty and the Sacred Treehouse Faculty

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.