Gavin’s 20 Breath Heart.Muscle.Mind Meditation Technique

– Gavin McKay, Founder & President Unite Fitness

There are so many moments when you feel sped up, pulled around or otherwise emotionally upset. We call our general reaction stress and now we know that stress is the underlying cause of so many of our physical and mental illnesses.  A friend, who is super into fitness and nutrition, just told me how he went to the doctor because he was having heart palpitations and blurred vision.  It turned out to be stress induced from always worrying about work situations via his smart phone.  The doctors told him to manage his stress better, but how exactly can he do that?

Stress Is Unavoidable Yet Manageable

Stress management is not yet common knowledge or practice in American life, but it will have to be as this is one of the major issues our generation is facing.  Whether you are a good person, living a good life or not, we are all hit with stress throughout our day.  As a business owner with a big vision I am not immune to stress, regardless of the industry I have chosen.

In fact I have spent years studying and practicing meditation technique, mostly through Shambhala programs, both to learn how to be my best self more often and to understand how to live a happier, more purposeful life.

From my experiences I have evolved a quick and effective daily or in-the-moment meditation technique that I want to share with everyone to help manage your stress and care more deeply for yourself.  This technique can be used daily as a morning routine to set your day on track or in the moment when you are feeling on edge or have a moment, even if you are on a train, at work, on a park bench.

When we take good care of ourselves and find peace, we can be our best selves for others and feel good.

We have all experienced times when we react negatively or feel horribly stressed and we intuitively know we wouldn’t have done that or felt that way if we were in a better place.  It is usually not the situation that “makes” us feel stressed or negative; it is more our conditioned mindsets or that we are repressing something, upset about an unrelated issue or simply tired.

Regardless of the reason, we can use a short, simple breathing and guided meditation to change our mood and physical state, so we spend less time in the paralyzing stressed out zone.  I use this 20 breath Heart.Muscle.Mind meditation technique in the mornings to set my day up in a positive way, when I need to make decisions or even on the spot to manage my stress.  I hope it is useful to you.

Heart.Muscle.Mind Meditation Technique:

  1. Be Still

    • You can be seated (ideally with an upright posture), standing, or lying down (you might fall asleep though) but you should be able to settle into stillness.  This means:
      • No phone interruptions
      • No fidgeting
      • No wandering eyes.
    • Just settle all movement and become a passive observer of the space around you.  This can take up to a minute as you acknowledge things, people, conditions, etc., but you don’t let your mind go off running stories about them.
    • The stillness naturally reduces your physical stress vibration, reduces the heart rate, and generally puts you into a peaceful and healing state by sending the signal to your mind and body that you are safe.
  2. meditate breathBreathe Fully

    • Draw a full breath into your lungs letting your belly expand first and then let it fill the ribs and lungs. Let it out slowly and consciously, listening and feeling it like you are riding a rollercoaster up and down.  Placing your attention on the physical sensation of your breath automatically draws your mind into the present moment.  The mental chatter and thoughts don’t have as much free room to roam.  It’s like putting your baby in a rocker or swing: just enjoy the flow in and out.
  3. Count to 10 and Back to Zero

    • Counting is a simple meditation technique that helps you know when your mind has went off on a tangent.  We are pretty smart so if we just counted up and up, we could do it and still put some mental capacity toward thinking about what is concerning us in life right now.
    • Instead we only count to 10 and then have to reverse back down to zero, which forces us to pay attention to what we are doing.  It is also important to mentally count between breaths, not during the inhale or exhale.
      • Inhale… Exhale…1… Inhale… Exhale…2.
    • If your mind wanders and you aren’t sure what number you spaced out on, just take your best guess and continue on to the next number (being kind to yourself) versus starting over (being overly strict).
  4. Feel Your HEART

    • Now that we have settled and focused the mind and body we can direct it toward reflection and positivity. First, check-in with your heart or emotional state.
      • How are you feeling? What is your heart radiating? Calm or angry, joyful or depressed, confident or doubting, etc.
    • The key will be to acknowledge whats going on inside without getting wrapped up in the storylines of why.  Just give your emotional state a moment to be whatever it is without restricting it.
    • Sometimes I cry without knowing exactly why, but those meditation sessions actually feel the most productive. Sometimes I smile, just let it out and be reminded that you have a beautiful human heart.
    • For the Heart section it helps me to take one hand and hold it over my heart as a cue to tune into my emotional center as it literally is felt there in your chest.
  5. Feel Your MUSCLE

    • Second, bring your awareness to your physical body. How is your body feeling?
      • What parts are calling out for extra care?
      • Do you have a stomach ache from eating the wrong foods.
      • Has your ankle been hurting for months and you haven’t gone to a doctor?
    • This is a time when you can let your body really motivate some great healthy decisions, just by feeling the signals of discomfort that are there and usually brushed off.
    • This portion of the meditation can also be amazing for drumming up gratitude for our magical bodily functions by also recognizing what parts have healed or feel fantastic!
    • For the Muscle section I give a light grip to my thighs as a cue to scan my body.
  6. Feel Your MIND

    • Third, bring your awareness to your intelligent mind, the state of your thoughts.
      • Are you speedy and overwhelmed with thoughts of tasks and plans?
      • Are you bored, slow and unchallenged?
      • Are you inspired and bursting with creative ideas?
      • Is your mind balanced or unfocused?
    • The mind is more amorphous so it can be harder to tune into the state of your thoughts, but feel the quality, quantity and speed of your thoughts. I find this section pushes me to adjust my work, reading, TV time and people in my life to stay inspired and challenged.
    • For the Mind section I flip my palms up as a cue to read my thought stream as if it were in the air above me.
  7. Conclude With Gratitude

    • Any meditation technique you do hopefully drums up feelings of peaceful contentment (not struggling with the way things are) and gratitude for all that you have.  It is nice to end the meditation by being thankful for the miraculous Heart.Muscle.Mind that you have been given and dedicating your meditation to all those who suffer with much less.
    • The concluding movement is to sit or stand tall (gather your energy), take your hands together at the heart or to your waist and bow forward (offering it to others with respect).

When I write it out in steps it might seem long but really it’s:

  1. A quick warm-up (20 breaths)
  2. Check-in with your Heart, Muscle and Mind aspects
  3. Cool-down/conclude with gratitude.

All in all it can be a quick 5 minutes or extend it out to 15 minutes. Just be mindful of getting lost in the stories about why you feel a certain way or other distractions.  Keep it brief, use the hand movements if they are useful, but try it out for a week or two and see how you enjoy it; and how it changes your outlook, words and actions.

Click here for more meditation training courses or meditation books and blogs.