This post is brought to you by the slowing of my breath

How the Spire tracker turns out to be a good tool for overcoming writer’s block

Screenshot of Spire’s Green Dots Breathing Exercise

The reason I am writing this paragraph is that I just spent 55 seconds slowing my breath.

I have come to expect that this activity, called the Green Dots Breathing Exercise by the people who make the Spire activity tracker, is a good way to begin writing a post here at Medium.

The Spire tracker is a device the size of a school eraser that you attach to clothing next to your body. I wear mine on the band of my boxer shorts. Via Bluetooth, it transmits data about my breathing to the Spire app on my iPhone 7.

Before I write the first words of a post, I tap the Spire icon. On the Spire home screen I then tap a white circle at the lower right that has six green dots within it. This opens a white background with gray and green dots pulsing in direct response to how I am breathing. The opening instruction, which appears in a calm, green font at the top of the screen, reads “Breath slowly to turn the dots green.”

I have done the exercise often enough that I can usually turn all of the dots and the white background green in under a minute without the app stepping in to offer corrections.

“A bit slower” Spire will suggest if my breath has not settled down. Or it might ask me to take a deep breath, which is a way of saying “Start over, Buddy — you’re still tense.”

When my breath does slow below my average breaths per minute, the app praises me with the word “Nice” at the top of the the screen. But that’s not the end of the exercise. You have to keep going at that slower breath rate for a while longer.

If all goes well, after a few more calm breaths, I will see the message “Keep it up.” When the background and all the dots turn to shades of green, my reward is “Well done” and two circles with numbers in them. The first reports how long it took me to calm my breath. The other states my average breaths per minute during the exercise.

I am frankly amazed at how reliably this exercise helps me to begin a writing session. I have also used it before making a challenging phone call or beginning to record my weekly podcast.

Something settles as my breath slows down and deepens.

Something lets go.

My inner chatter — Is this going to be a good post? How many views will it get? — recedes enough for the first few typed words to sneak onto my Thunderbolt display. The words of the second graf, seeing a break in the wall of procrastination and doubt, scamper in behind the first ones. Before I know it, the post is assembling itself out of the void without much tugging and pulling on my part.

I have my Spire tracker set to send a notification if my breathing becomes tense. The alert generates a mild vibration on my waist. Then a message appears on my Apple Watch stating that I have been tense for the past two minutes.

I am surprised when the tension alert sometimes goes off when I am seemingly well into the flow of writing a post. I am enjoying myself. Words are hopping onto the screen as if they know exactly where they are going. I thought I was in the zone, but the tracker says otherwise.

It might be my inner editor/critic making a sneaky comeback. Hey, this is pretty damn good, pal. You may have yourself a viral post here, better than all that drivel you wrote last week!

I smile when the tracker sends out the alert. Busted! Sometimes I will do the Green Dot exercise again to get on track. But other times I will say screw it, I’m on a roll now, and I don’t care if I’m tense.

I bought my Spire tracker on a lark after Christmas, not expecting much.

If I had known it was going to be this helpful in my writing I would have gladly paid twice the $130 I spent for it on Amazon.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Len Edgerly’s story.