Mindfulness of Breathing at the Gate of the Nostrils

Mindfulness of breathing at the gate of the nostrils is probably one of the simplest but most overlooked entry points to becoming present.

As incredible as the abdomen and core body are for focusing and resting attention, they can also at times present complications. There’s a lot going on in the viscera and the belly. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say the most people in this culture are carrying some form of trauma there (fear of appearing too large, etc.). As we know, sometimes focusing on knots and holding patterns can tighten them further. Sometimes having attention deep in the body is not the answer.

In some sense, the area around the nostrils represents the purest access to the feeling of breath energy. It is not mixed with other body sensations as it is when we access it in the core body.

Further, even if the body/mind/heart is severely contracted/dysregulated, the breath energy (when felt purely at the nose) will pretty much always have a pleasant/soothing quality.

By inviting some attention there, we can let the energy and nervous system re-calibrate in the background as they are soothed by the freshness of the breath. Then we can “go back in” to the body after the system is more settled, and more easily make contact with what is contracted and difficult to feel/be with.

Lastly, while various kinds of breath work can be extremely beneficial, it’s also very important to have periods where we are allowing the breath the space to spontaneously shift phases (speed up, slow down, stop, shorten, elongate, etc.) with absolutely no interference from the conscious mind.

Like emotion and sensation, part of the “stuckness” of certain habitual breathing patterns is the fact that we are not giving them the space, time and softness to spontaneously complete or resolve. As with other involuntary systems in the body, respiration has its own natural intelligence that must be rediscovered. We must let ourselves “be breathed.”

The gate of the nostrils is a great resource in this process, as the act of placing awareness there encourages a witnessing of the “coming and going” of the breath energy like a tide. We just enjoy it however it is and watch it change, just like any other natural cycle does.