The Art of Attention

Practicing the 3-Minute Breathing Space in order to limber up our minds and shift our attention from auto-pilot to focus.

Last class, I shared a relatively unfiltered experience of the 3-minute breathing space practice. This class we’re going to take a closer look at the scaffolding of the practice itself. What are we actually doing with our minds during these three minutes?

Essentially, we’re inviting our attention to move. And we’re moving it in a couple of different ways. The first movement is towards a very open and spacious attention. Consider the quality of this as being very receptive. We’re not selecting any particular mental content during this time. Instead, we’re opening up, noticing whatever thoughts, feelings and sensations exist; and instead of engaging with them, we watch them. We stay here for about a minute, with our minds and with our attention.

The second stage of this practice asks us to let go of that receptive and open mode we were in, and shift to a quality of attention that’s a little narrower and more focused. The way we do that is by primarily focusing our attention at the belly and at the breath. So our attention is now trained on a singular place, and our job is to be really curious about the sensations and the changes and…

Subscribe for unlimited access to

  • NEW! Unlimited access to our premium Mindful Meditations
  • Full access to every story on
  • Print magazine and mobile app
  • Complete PDF library of Mindful magazine

Already a digital subscriber?
Log in to access this article


Get practices, tips, and special offers delivered straight to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
About the author

Zindel Segal

Zindel Segal, PhD, is Distinguished Professor of Psychology in Mood Disorders at the University of Toronto – He has pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation for promoting wellness in the area of mood disorders and has been continuously funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for the past 15 years. An author of over 10 books and 140 scientific publications, including The Mindful Way Through Depression – a patient guide for achieving mood balance in everyday life – Dr. Segal continues to advocate for the relevance of mindfulness-based clinical care in psychiatry and mental health.