Can we change the content of our mind?

I observe within myself a thin balance between breath and the will to be aware of it. I practically find it difficult to be aware of my breath. With effort I am able to observe my breath but something unusual happens when I observe. As soon as I become breath aware I find that the rhythm of my breath somehow changes. It changes and there sets in a completely different rhythm of in breath and out breath.

It looks like what I am observing is both my breath and my will to be aware of. The will to observe is superimposed in the natural flow of my breath.

When observed the breath becomes a little bit longer and deeper in its rhythm. The longer and calmer breath were not there to begin with. These calmer breathing patterns only arrive after I became aware of my breath. These slow and deeper breaths come as a reward of breath awareness. They are in part responsible for continuing my mindfulness meditation practice which takes a lot of constant effortless doing.

In physics there is a term called as observer effect. It  refers to the changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. Practically I find this observer effect very true in the classroom where I teach. When I turn my back from classroom , while writing something in my board, the class starts to make noise which is a sort of default state of my students in my absence. But as soon as I face the class , as I observe , the class ceases to make noise and bestows it attention towards me.

Similar nature of observer effect is somehow working at the level of our breath. When we are not being aware of our breath it is making its weird rhythm in term of inbreath and outbreath. But as soon as the awareness of breath sets in the rate and rhythm changes and becomes deep and slow. Just like a defibrillator setting the sinus rhythm (regular beating) of heart,  our awareness of breath sets sinus rhythm of our breath.

This observer effect on our breath has immense potential in terms of our physical and psychological health.

Such potential is highlighted in one study where Pierre Philippot , GaĆ«tane Chapelle & Sylvie Blairy studied how our breath changes in various emotional states like joy, anger, fear or sadness. They were also able to bring these emotional states by making the volunteer breath in particular pattern. They were able to bring the desired emotional state by breathing in particular way. 

There seems to the double way of connection in control between our breath and our emotions.

  • In first , our emotional state control our breath. This connection we can feel within ourselves during extremes of emotion. In extremes of emotion our breath becomes rapid and shallow. But when we are relaxed the breath becomes deep and slow.
  •  In second way of connection we can invoke desired state of emotion by breathing in particular pattern as highlighted by Pierre Philippot study.

There is some truth in the statement saying breath is window to the mind. It is not just a one way window. It is two way.

We can not only observe our mind in our breath but change what is in our mind with our breath. 

Thank you for reading this far.

May peace be with you.

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