The Awareness of Breathing – A Q&A with eMindful Teacher Jim Austin

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October 7, 2020

Headshot of eMindful Lead Teacher Jim Austin

While snoozed alarms and frantic routines are common morning rituals for many of us, eMindful Lead Teacher, Jim Austin describes a very different morning routine when asked how he starts his day.

“I do a bit of yoga, a half hour of mindfulness practice, and then if I have time I’ll do some reading,” he says. “I am a morning person; I have always appreciated that time before everyone gets up, and I really rely on having some time to myself in the morning.”

Jim’s journey to discovering mindfulness is an interesting one, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to learn more.

Q: What got you interested in mindfulness?

A: I came to it through Buddhist meditation, but the beauty of mindfulness is it doesn’t have to bring in religion. It does bring in a sense of morality with attitudes of mindfulness like acceptance, generosity and non-judging. I love that meditation and yoga are a form of mental training that is accessible to anyone.

Jim describes being “somewhat interested” in meditation as a teenager and throughout college he had careers as a musician, computer programmer, and yoga instructor before teaching mindfulness.

“It’s so much easier to do something that you enjoy; that’s a life lesson for all of us at some point, he says.”

Q: Speaking of work, you’ve been teaching a Mindfulness at Work Program, correct?

A: Yes.  This is a brand new program that draws on everything we’ve learned about teaching stress coping skills using mindfulness practice. We’ve adapted it over time to talk about the emotions, reactivity, and all of the things that relate to stress and found a way to make it more accessible to people on their lunch break. It’s half an hour twice a week for five weeks. It’s an exciting program that is more interactive and offers people more resources than our past stress management programs.

“We’ve gone from 1 in 12 people to 1 in 3 people reporting less stress over the last year,” Jim says, citing studies that were done before and after the pandemic. Learn more about Mindfulness At Work.

Q: You teach a lot of mindfulness practices, but do you have a favorite?

A: Yes – and it’s so basic. I love awareness of breathing. I’ve gone beyond what we teach in the mindfulness classes to study the original Indian texts on these practices, and I have found that there is a lot of depth in that practice. It’s so accessible and wonderful and it can be short or long, but in one breath you can begin to feel relief and centeredness.

Jim says he’s also changed the way that he teaches this practice over time.

“I make sure that people can feel that breath within different parts of their bodies. Putting their hand on their body while breathing and bringing more awareness to that can be helpful in terms of relaxing.”

As Jim and I discuss the benefits of mindfulness, we also touched on the fact that the practice is gaining more awareness and curiosity.

Q: For people who are feeling a little lost right now and are curious about mindfulness, what would you tell them?

A: Mindfulness offers a way to be more fully engaged with your life moment to moment so you are intimate with your body, thoughts and emotions.This creates space and opportunity so you can be more aligned in what you want to do. Mindfulness creates a space in which you can discover how stress is being created for you and how you can move beyond that. It’s simple and beautiful and can become a way of life that does not conflict with any belief system, and it makes you more of a growth person.

With World Mental Health Day around the corner, join Jim and the other teachers at eMindful to discover the benefits of mindfulness and explore the programs available to help you manage stress, recenter, and address whatever current challenges are standing in the way of helping you make every moment matter.

 Written by Becky Greiner