“This is What You’ve Been Trained For”


Hi there. How are you?

Me? I’m fine.

And frightened. And frustrated. And weary.

If you had asked me a few weeks back, you might have caught me in the middle of a panic spiral.

I am grateful not to have suffered any major losses. My heart breaks for those who have.

I am sad about the lesser losses—like a special trip to Europe early in April that had to be cancelled and cannot be replicated.

Toward the end of the movie “Top Gun,” one of the officers addresses the Navy pilots who are about to head into a battle. He says “Gentlemen, this is the real thing. This is what you’ve been trained for.”

I’ve thought of that scene many times during the difficult weeks since the coronavirus pandemic changed our world. More than one mindfulness teacher has noted that highly charged times like this are what we’ve been training for. It’s time to open up that toolkit of mindfulness practices and use them to help us navigate the fear and uncertainty.

Over the coming days, I’ll share a series of brief practices that are helping me to be present and calm. I hope they help you too.

First up: a simple breathing practice to relax the body and settle the mind.

Start by taking a deep breath in a 4-2-6 pattern:

  • Inhale deeply though the nostrils (count 1-2-3-4).
  • Hold the breath (count 1-2).
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth (count 1-2-3-4-5-6).

Return to a regular breathing rhythm (breathe in 1, breathe out 1) for a few breaths.  When you are ready, take another deep breath in a 4-2-6 pattern.

Continue alternating between deep breaths and regular breathing rhythm for 2 to 3 minutes.


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