“When you look at a tree in a storm, you see that the top of the tree is very unstable and vulnerable. The wind can break the smaller branches at any time. But when you look down to the trunk of the tree, you have a different impression. You see that the tree is very solid and still, and you know that it will be able to withstand the storm. We are also like a tree. Our head is like the top of the tree during a tempest of a strong emotion, so we have to bring our attention down to the level of our navel. We begin to practice mindful breathing.” For some people bringing awareness to the breath, bringing attention down to the level of the navel, causes an uptick in anxious sensations and thoughts… at least in the beginning. Then start the thoughts of “I’m not good at this. This isn’t for me. This is for other people.” If this has happened to you, it is totally normal. In fact, everything you experience in the practice of mindfulness is normal. But in the early stages of practice (and also in periods of increased stress) it might feel like too much to ask of yourself to tolerate more anxiety.

If this has been your experience, give yourself a break. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and put one hand on your belly just below your navel. See if you can allow your belly to soften so the breath can come a little deeper there. If you have a yoga block you can try putting it beneath your sacrum in a “supported bridge” pose. How does this change your experience of “navel gazing”? It really isn’t about the belly button lint. It is about finding what is solid and still within you, where you might reside when the winds pick up. Sometimes you need a different pose to find repose.

Jess Stevens, writing mindfulness for Isabella