Your Nostrils

Posted on November 1, 2012

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I am going to teach you a trick. This is how you center yourself, in any situation. This is how you come back to yourself when your anger, irritation, anxiety, grief or frustration starts to overtake you. You ask yourself:

Which nostril am I breathing out of right now?

Yes, you heard me right. Ask yourself this question. This question about your nostrils.

Well, which one is it? Is the left one? The right? Are you in one of those rare parts of the day when you are breathing out of both your nostrils equally?

So many spiritual practices tell you to come back to your breath when you’re upset. But that’s hard to remember when you’re in an intimidating or challenging situation. Or maybe you’ll do what I used to do a lot, which is to come back to your breath only to notice that your breathing is faster or stronger or more labored than it usually is and that won’t help you much either.

But paying attention to how the breath moves through the nostrils, now that’s an effective strategy. It requires you-if only for just one moment-to switch from your emotional brain to your rational one. You’re going to have to pay attention for a second. You’re going to have to analyze the breath (Left or right? Or if both, which one’s stronger?)

And the tiny concentration that is needed to answer this question will be enough to help shift you back to a more peaceful state of mind. 

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