Remembering to Breathe

In the Editor’s Note, in the recent issue of The Writer’s Eye Magazine, I wrote briefly about how life never seems to cooperate with our well-laid plans and gave advice about what to do when things go askew: take a deep breath and take time to view things from a larger perspective. Little did I know at the time that my own life, which seemed hectic enough at that point, would become even more unpredictable.

It’s time to take my own advice and remember to breathe deeply, moving my sense of center from my mind, with its myriad of  worries, to my body. This brings me back to the present moment and reminds me that this moment is really all that is actually happening—not all that stuff swirling around in my head—and this moment is all that I have to deal with.

Breath is an amazing thing, when you think about it. While most of the time we breathe unconsciously, letting our bodies control the process, consciously controlling or simply becoming aware of our breathing naturally calms us. It’s the basis for the beginning of most meditation practices. Breathing deeply moves more oxygen into and through our bodies, giving us a stronger sense of well-being. Our physical senses become more acute, colors seem more vivid, and it’s easier to be grateful for all the good things in that moment.

Entering the word “breathing” into the Google search engine results in pages of links—not only about the technical and scientific aspects of breathing, but also abut the spiritual and physical benefits of conscious breathing. There are pages about Yoga, Tai Chi, Conscious, Optimal, and other breathing-centered sites. The common claim of all these sites is that breathing with intent and with focus promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and increases physical energy.

If you’d like to explore this with me, here are the steps I follow:

1) Sit quietly in an upright, comfortable position.
2) Close eyes and breathe in slowly through the nose, to a count of 7 or 8.
3) Hold breath for a count of 7
4) Exhale slowly through the mouth for a count of 8-10, focusing on expelling all the air in the lungs.
5) Repeat steps 2 through 4.

Ten to fifteen minutes is a good amount of time for a first session. As you breathe, really focus on the flow of air into and out of your body. If it’s helpful to maintain focus, think of a word and repeat that word (a mantra) while breathing.

Ah, yes. So much better.

Now that we’re calmed and centered, it’s time to open our journals and write. How do you feel? What changed for you as your practiced focusing on breath? Did it change your perspective on an issue or problem in your life? Write about this experience, any insights or “ah-ha’s” you had.

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