One of the most basic meditation methods is to direct your attention to your own breathing—the inhales and the exhales. Our breath is indeed our natural anchor system in our body, so it makes sense to choose it as the go-to resource when it comes to meditation.
However, if you have breathing difficulties, it’s unlikely that exercises focusing on your breath have a calming effect on your nervous system. Instead, just the thought of focusing on your breath may make you feel breathless.
Causes and effects of breathing difficulties
Breathing difficulties can be caused by many different conditions, including a cold, a chest infection, asthma, allergies, or a lung condition. In these cases, you often feel as if you can’t draw a complete breath.
But breathing difficulties can also develop as a result of stress and anxiety. In that case, the attempt to free yourself from anxious feelings with the help of breathing exercises often has precisely the opposite effect, and the act of focusing on the breath itself gets anchored to feelings of alertness and anxiety.
Also interesting: Your 4-Step-Formula To Overcome ANY Difficult Situation
If this sounds familiar to you, you may have stayed away from meditation because focusing on the breath is often promoted as the single most effective meditation practice. But that’s not true. The following sole of your feet exercises is a simple meditation practice that you can use even if you have breathing difficulties. It’s an excellent way to help you step out of the reactive mode we often get into in stressful moments.
Sole of your feet meditation – How does it work?
It would help if you used a timer like your smartphone or any other timer type for the sole of your feet meditation and set the alarm to two minutes. You can do this exercise sitting, standing, or when lying in bed. In case you do it while in bed, imagine your feet being closely connected to the ground.
I suggest reading the instructions first and then start the timer and close your eyes.
For the first two minutes, direct your attention to the sole of your left foot. Concentrate on how it feels. How it makes contact with the shoe or the
ground (or if you’re in bed with the mattress or sheets). Notice how it feels on the foot’s heel, the arches and the balls, the top of the foot, the toes.
If you want to, you can move the toes around a little to become more aware of sensations in the foot. What sensations can you feel there? Can you feel the blood pulsing through it? Can you feel how warm or cold it is? Can you become aware of how much space your foot takes up?
If your attention wanders, notice the quality of thoughts and mood
states without judging them; just notice how it is. Then bring your attention gently back to the sole of your left foot. Keep focusing on how the sole of your left foot feels. Don’t stop until the two-minute bell rings. OK, start the timer, close your eyes, and start.
Don’t try to prevent your mind from going someplace else
How was it? Have you noticed things on the sole of your left foot that you don’t usually think about: sensations, qualities, characteristics. Maybe you noticed its size or shape or tingling or warmth.
You probably also have noticed how your mind was wandering away from your foot someplace else several times. That’s perfectly normal and is actually an essential part of meditation. Many people think that they fail when they are noticing that their mind is not focusing on their chosen anchor anymore. But mind-wandering is perfectly normal, and the act of bringing it back to the foot is an essential part of the meditation exercise.
The next step is to focus on your right foot
We’re not done yet! The next step is to set the timer for two more minutes and do the same with the sole of your right foot. See if you can deepen your awareness of sensations and observations this time by noticing more aspects or features. Again, as your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back. OK, start the timer and begin.
Also interesting: Why Trying to Control Your Thoughts and Feelings Comes at a High Cost
What have you noticed this time? Did the time seem to pass more slowly? Has your mind started to tell you that there was nothing new to learn?
Expand your attention by focusing on both feet simultaneously
The last step is to set the timer for two more minutes and see if you can simultaneously focus on your left and right foot soles. Try not to take turns, but instead widen your attention so that you can notice both at the same time. Feel connected to your feet on the ground and imagine yourself rooting into the ground, strong and stable.
As your mind pulls you away, you perhaps notice some strong emotions and thoughts. Remember that there’s nothing you have to push away or change. Just notice it with curiosity and kindness and how it is for you in this moment, and then gently direct it back again.
When the timer goes off, release your attention from your feet and open your eyes, bringing your focus and attention back to the room around you.
What have you learned? What have you noticed? Have your observations and your awareness come and go? Did you sometimes focus only on the left side and then on the right side, while at other times, you could focus on both feet? That’s great! Focusing your attention first on one foot and then on the other builds awareness in the present and flexible attention.
Why is the soles of your feet exercise so effective?
This practice can help you feel more grounded and stable by simply bringing your attention to sensations in the soles of your feet. By focusing on your soles, the part of your body closest to the ground, your feet become stabilizing anchors, like roots of a tree that keep your mind in the present and your thoughts from unraveling in stressful or demanding situations.
Done regularly, this simple meditation exercise can help you step out of autopilot and come into a space where you can respond more consciously. Anchoring your consciousness to the ground helps to undermine the automatic thought and behavior processes that may quickly lead you from one emotion to another, such as from anger to aggression, from the urge to eat that cookie or have that drink. By shifting your attention and awareness from an anger-producing situation to a neutral point on your body, the soles of your feet, you open a tiny window of choice and, at the same time, you become more centered and calm, feeling a sense of resilience.
The soles of your feet meditation help strengthen your mental flexibility
The soles of your feet meditation offers an additional benefit. While most meditation exercises teach you to limit your attention by focusing on one thing like your breath or a mantra, the soles of your feet meditation trains you to broaden your awareness because you focus first on each foot individually and then on both feet simultaneously. It’s an excellent way to become mentally more flexible and open.
Also interesting: Why We Dream: The Key to Emotional and Mental Wellbeing
So in case you have breathing difficulties, the sole of your feet meditation is an excellent alternative. Even if I don’t have breathing difficulties, I sometimes prefer it to the more common practice of following your breath. For one thing, I can use it anytime and anywhere – even while I’m speaking, preparing myself for a difficult conversation, or when I’m awake in bed at night.
Why don’t you try it out and let me know how it goes?