And the best part: it’s simple, and it’s free. You can do it anywhere. In the car, at the office party, sitting around the dinner table. You can do it right now.
I don’t just mean that unconscious type of breathing you’re doing right now as you skim your emails and blogs. I mean, take a second right now and take a real deep breath. Count to 4 as you inhale, and then count back down as you exhale.
And now another.
And (please, bear with me!) One More.
Ahhh, how does that feel?
Now wait a minute! Did you really do it?
I remember when my youngest daughter Rosie was little. She was… shall we say, just a tad prone to emotional outbursts. That girl did not have a problem with stuffing her anger.
“Take a deep breath,” I’d entreat her, worried she was veering into hyperventilation.
Although she rolled her eyes at me, she’d do it. I may have been her dorky mom, but she’d discovered that those deep breaths really did help her feel better.
The only problem? I’d forget to take a few deep breaths myself!
Now, years later, I’ve rediscovered the deceptively simple art and science of the conscious inhale and exhale.
More Effective Than My Favorite Herbal Remedies
Remembering this one simple action has made a bigger difference in my life than bucket loads of herbs, the latest greatest supplements, the rituals, the releasings, self-help exercises … all of it.
Of course all those therapies have an important place in my life and probably yours. But – oh my, when I take that pause. That moment of simply tuning into my breath. When I deepen it and focus on oxygenating my entire body. ..Wow!
Suddenly I am present again. I am in the moment and I am in the Infinite.
I am in remembrance, and I am once again connected to the Beloved, the Divine, the Universe, the wisdom that is who I truly am.
That connection becomes all the more important when the external, social demands of life as a human being in the western world speed up.
As in holiday parties. As in circling overcrowded parking lots, standing in long lines surrounded by agitated shoppers, navigating packed grocery stores.
As in burning your finger as your wrestle yet another pan of cookies out of the oven at 10:30 p.m. Struggling with that one broken Christmas light that’s killing off half the string.
And if you’re lucky enough to dodge out of these cultural demands of this Western holiday, you’re likely encountering other demands – at work or at home – that take you out of your center.
And that’s when 15-60 seconds of focused breathing makes all the difference.
Your breath is always there. It is one thing you CAN control. And more importantly, it’s now known that calming and deepening the breath turns down that ‘fight or flight’ response, slowing that flood of stress hormones through your body.
We are all constantly breathing – obviously. But how often do you take the pause to pay attention?
If your answer is ‘never,’ try taking that pause once a day. Put a reminder on your phone – timed for when you know you’ll be sitting in that stressful traffic jam, or otherwise engaged in anxiety-producing pursuits.
If it’s ‘a few times a day’ or ‘during meditation only’, try taking the pause every hour – just as an experiment – and see what happens.
There are myriad books, courses, audios on the art of breathing to rejuvenate one’s life and to connect with Spirit. It is of course the basis of many modalities of meditation. Returning to the rhythms of our breath is a tried and true way to calm those churning thoughts and return to the stillness that is the purpose of meditating in the first place.
You’d think it would be so easy. It’s just breath, right? But, ah, this is one of those deceptive practices that is so simple… and so NOT easy.
That ‘monkey mind’ and your externally focused self wants to pull you right back out. Wants to churn out thought after thought, reminder after reminder. Its methods are sometimes obvious, and often insidious.
And you know what? That’s okay too. Despite your best efforts you will find yourself back on that mental roller coaster – and all you have to do is notice. But here’s the tricky part: Do that noticing with kindness, with love, with a sense of acceptance of yourself and your own perfect humanity.
And take a deep breath. And Another….
And let the dance continue.