Let’s take a moment and unpack the 3-Minute Breathing Space (3MBS). This is a practice that is one of the more durable practices in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Program. People say they enjoy it they find it useful. And it has also made its way into other programs that are involved with mental health, leadership, education, and other spheres of life.
The 3-Minute Breathing Space
- In the first step of the 3MBS the invitation is to bring attention to our experience in a wider and more open manner that isn’t really involved with selecting or choosing or evaluating, but simply holding—becoming a container for thoughts feelings or sensations in the body that are present and seeing if we can watch them from one moment to the next. So a widescreen on which all kinds of things can show up. So we hang out there for about a minute.
- In the second step, we’re asked to let go of that widescreen and to bring a focus that’s much more concentrated and centered, so narrower, on breathing in one region of our bodies—the breath of the belly, or the chest, or the nostrils, or anywhere that the breath makes itself known, and keeping that more concentrated focus. So the attention here is narrow, in the first step it’s wide.
- In the third step, when we move out to become aware of sensations in the body as a whole, sitting with the whole body, the whole breath, once again we move back to wider and spacious container of attention for our experience.
Unpacking the 3MBS
So what exactly is going on in the 3MBS. At one level, if you’re in the middle of an automatic, or multitasking moment, there is a place that you can move your mind to that allows you to step out of these routines and the the demands they place on our attention. Simply sitting down and allowing your attention to move in these different ways can be quite beneficial throughout the day.
But what exactly is going on with our attention? The 3MBS as we’ve designed it really is a lot about moving attention in specific ways to help us free ourselves or to get unstuck from some of these automatic routines.
In the space of about 3 minutes we go from wide, to narrow, to wide again.
This happens in the configuration, if you will of an hourglass, which can be seen as having a wide opening, a very narrow neck, and a wide base.
These are metaphors to describe the movement of attention. And the movement of attention is one of the things that I believe is really helpful about the 3MBS. Because when we’re caught in multitasking, or automatic routines, often our attention is not really available to us, and it’s not really being guided or directed by our intentionality.
So, these are some of the speculations, my own ideas, about how to 3MBS is helpful. The important thing is that if you do find it helpful just continue to practice it and figure out, maybe from the inside, how it continues to bring value and grounding in your own life.
For more on the 3-Minute Breathing Space, see this guided meditation.