Breathing mindfully helps to unclog me

I never thought I’d be thankful for a stuffy nose, but it helped me to meditate without really trying. It all started on a day I was off from work and I stayed in bed as ten thousand thoughts ran through my mind. I noticed a clogged nostril and focused all of my attention on trying to reopen it.

Concentrating on my breath, I slowed my intake. I “felt” the air going in and going out. I have trouble when one nasal passage gets stuffed up at the expense of the other. My left nostril clogs up while I’m lying on my left side, and my right when I’m reclining on the right. I think some nasal stuff, which goes unnoticed when standing or sitting, starts to accumulate due to some allergy or structural facial malfunction. (Was this caused by blows I took to the head while playing sports or other pursuits? I don’t know.)

I alleviate the problem by simply lying on the other side. I slow my breathing and block all thoughts save for my focus on the cavity inside my face where cool air passes through my nose and into the throat and then to my chest. I feel the air going in. My chest and abdomen expands. I became aware of other irritations, other parts of the body that are uncomfortable. I sense a feeling in my shoulders. I “command” them to relax, to untie the knots.  Relax. Then I broaden my scan to the facial muscles. It’s amazing how stressful we become as the jaws clench, our mouth tightens and the eyebrows close toward the facial center as we unconsciously look for a potential danger caused by our monkey mind. I unclench my jaws, relax the mouth and eyes and let my head follow my heart by focusing on the present moment.

The tenseness I feel usually comes from thoughts I have of chores I need to do, or regrets for things I did or did not do. Why do I feel uptight when focusing on the past and the future, but calm and at peace when I “will” myself to live in the moment?

I take a deep breath and hold it. I hold it for a long count of two or three. I’m giving the process I started  inside a chance to “breath” and relax without having to work on the in- or the out-breath.


Next, I slowly exhale, tracing the flow of movement out of my nose, feeling how my body deflates and decreases its amount of oxygen. I stop. I halt the breathing process right after that last drop of air leaves me. Counting two or three long seconds, I slowly retrace my steps, taking air in again.

Something almost magical begins to happen. I feel a slight tinge at the center of the blockage. This tinge spreads out and the tiniest bit of air begins to enter through the clogged area. It’s unnoticeable at first, because I’m focused elsewhere. My attention is still on the mechanics of what has now become a meditative breathing. But soon, there’s no denying that “something” has gotten through the barricade. I liken it to a football player running with the ball breaking through the line of scrimmage of blockers from an opposing team.

The ball carrier runs another play right up the center and finds more daylight. He gets free. He’s found clear sailing and low and behold, my nostril is open.

I can breathe freely again, and more importantly, I’ve relieved myself of all negative thoughts. I’m living in the moment and not the past or future.

This is what meditation is all about, isn’t it?

12 comments on “Breathing mindfully helps to unclog me

  1. […] Breathing mindfully helps to unclog me « Contoveros Concentrating on my breath, I slowed my intake. I “felt” the air going in and going out. I have trouble when one nasal passage gets stuffed up at the expense of the other. My left nostril clogs up while I'm lying on my left side, … Source: […]


    • contoveros says:

      I checked out this site and it deals with different ways of meditating, all of which use breathing methods to attain a calm and peaceful state within.

      michael j


  2. Eric says:

    It is a ‘breath’ of fresh air to read your newest posts. Emily says ‘hi’. – Eric


    • contoveros says:

      We got to get together again. Are you still meeting with Highly Sensitive Persons? How is Julie? What about Joy?

      Say hello to Emily and the rest of ’em when you get a chance!

      michael j


      • Eric says:

        Hi Mike,

        Nope, haven’t been there in ages. We will have to make it out some Saturday to Ikea.



  3. Tana says:

    I tried this last night as I was trying to fall asleep and fighting anxiety. I focused on my breathing for an hour and the anxiety swept in anyway. It’s interesting as I watch this, trying to learn the lesson presented. I’m still flummoxed. It will come. Eventually. (Right?) 🙂


    • contoveros says:

      If you build it, He will come. Your Prince Charming will arrive and you’ll be surprised to learn he was there with you all the time.

      My first teacher, a psychologist who got her Ph.D in comparitive studies for transcendental meditation and mindfulness meditation, offered two basic “aims” for meditating: “Don’t try. Don’t judge.” She told us veterans learning how to cope with PTSD not to fight the thoughts that would eventually intrude, but to treat them as clouds and to simply observe and let them float by. She suggested we gently “nudge” out the thoughts by returning our awareness to our breathing, the one anchor we know will always be there.

      I didn’t really “connect” until months later while meditating with a small group under the guidance of a Zen Buddhist teacher, a woman who worked in a hospice, who used the body scan technique to help multi-tasking people like me to relax. When I stopped “trying” to seek Nirvana, I got my first taste of it.

      It manifested through no work of my own but through the lack of work, if you can understand it. I merged with the love and compassion that exists all at once in the Universe once we surrender and open ourselves to its Goodness.


  4. livvy1234 says:

    Turning Suffering Inside Out by Darlene Cohen, zen teacher died a few months ago. She lived in bed for many years with arthritis. Offers many ways live with physical pain and discomfort.


    • contoveros says:

      Thanks, Livvy. I like Thich Nhat Hanh because he never required a person meditating to sit on a mat and go within the old conventional way. Many people at his 6-day retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery lay on their backs for “deep” meditation and I wished I had found a space other than a folding chair to have joined them. [There was no room on the crowded floor and I did not bring anything to spread on the wooden surface.]

      You can meditate from any position with or without your eyes closed, just as long as the intent is right and you can benefit from not falling asleep. Heck, even falling asleep while meditating would probably have its own benefits. Think of the lucid dreams your subcoscious could conjure up with out you thinking about it!


  5. souldipper says:

    Wow…you’ve written about taking a pathway to peace, Michael J. I like reminders to say thanks for that life giving force. I’m taught that each single breath takes me very close to the Divine. It takes me to peace, joy, love and fulfillment. I’m all for that!


    • contoveros says:

      Meditation can be used in such practical ways as not only clearing the mind, but clearing the nostrils too.

      You don’t even have to get out of bed to do it!


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