Contrary to the saying that life is not measured in moments, but its measured by the moments that take your breath away; I have learned and believe firmly that just the opposite is true. Life is measured in the moments that GIVE you breath. So many things compete for our attention every day. In our attempt to schedule in another appointment, make another dance recital or attend another hockey game our days become narrower and each morsel of time becomes consumed by our out of control tendencies to take more on and multitask ad infinitum. Not only does this distort our sense of time but neuro-science is now telling us it causes brain damage. Slow down! Pull up a chair for a moment and consider the following.
Moments that take our breath away typically cause us to hold our breath and are usually fueled by experiences which fear and anxiety. This can impact our breath negatively.
It is when we are given breathe during positive experiences that we begin to relate the calm, poignant and visceral moments that may bring us relief, relaxation and pause to deliberate. During these times we may recall the positive relationships and experiences which preserve us and push us forward. These are the times where we may take measure of our lives. And during these times its not just the big things like the birth of new child, the completion of an exam, good news on the safety of a loved one making it through a dangerous period, or even the experiencing of other important life events. But its also relishing of the small celebrations of life that are happening in the lives of people around us, and even in the nature that surrounds us. When we become aware of our breath, we can then be attuned the important connections and wonderful things that we are missing out due to the bigger distractions. This is called mindful breathing.
Let's take a closer look at what is involved in mindful breathing. To do this you must first turn your attention to your breath. Breathing awareness can give you the power to harness the potential of each new moment! When we realize this we can begin to know and experience our true potential for change! Often times in life we are confronted with the stress and challenges that coming with the living of it. Utility bills, costs associated with raising children, and even meeting our basic needs can put us in a mine-field of worrisome thoughts. A lot of maintaining one's mental well-being has to do with doing activities that help ground us in the moment. This is where it is important to develop small rituals that allow us to pull ourselves into the moment and help us to let go of thoughts of the future-of which we have no control and thoughts of the past which can pull our attention away from the moment and may cause us to ruminate. Mindful breathing is one such ritual your body accomplishes naturally. From the beginning....you were born to do it! When we are babies we do this quite naturally, hopefully in an environment where we knew that our needs would be met by a caring adult.
As we move through our day knowledge of how our breathing impacts us is crucial to developing an awareness of what things which bring stress and also activiites which help us manage our stress. Interestingly, we can manage our stress more directly by focusing on our breath itself in the moment. This is part of what is called developing the art of mindful detachment. It is present in many Buddhist, Zen and Hindu rituals as a means to help one achieve enlightenment. Practitioner's meditate and focus on breathing itself have used breath to bend time and to create a sacred space. By breaking down days into minutes and minutes into seconds and seconds into moments these people are able to powerfully enhance their lives in the moment while expanding their consciousness.
The importance of our breath is vital. By stopping for only a moment just where you are to focus on your breathing you become aware of what your body is already accomplishing. It is providing you with everything you could ever need to live your next moment. Notice how your rib-cage expands automatically as your diaphram moves down and your lungs fill you with life-giving revitalizing oxygen. The process is so efficient it actually makes your blood bright red. It does this on its own! And you have been doing this since birth!
While you sleep your breath is bringing in new supplies and nutrients and expelling all the wastes and things it does not need. When you first wake in the morning be mindful of your first breath! Notice first how your breathing has brought you through the night. It also rejuvenates you by simultaneously revitalizing your cells with new oxygen while giving back to the environment, all the carbon dioxide it does not need. It also does this in an automatic way. You have a symbiotic relationship to the earth in a deep way!
As I become aware of my first breath in the morning. I am first thankful of my body's ability to take breath. I know many people do not have this ability and are on life-support or some people don't have breath at all. Breath is life itself. As I become aware of my first breath I realize that I inhabit this wonderful vessel that has the ability to heal and renew itself day after day. I realize that I am fed by what the universe has to offer and I also give something back to creation something it also needs....my breath. I also realize that I may hear my own inner voice during these times and that I am not alone. As I listen to my breath I realize that I may be beside my breath and that my body is taking care of itself in a very basic manner. I also become more aware and focused of things around me during this time.
So, breathing is automatic. What else is special about this first breath? Well... it is more that you may becoming aware of it for your first time. When we first become mindful of such things as our breathe, we can then become more aware of other aspects of our body's needs: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. This includes when we become excited over fun things, or begin to become aware of when we are stressed out by situations or certain people, places and things and our breathing becomes hampered. This week, I encourage you to become aware of your breath. The beauty of your first breath is your now awakening consciousness into your present ability to have some influence on your emotional and mental states. By focusing on your breath, you bring yourself into the present moment and assist the self with feelings of anxiety (over-obsession with thoughts of the future), or depression (over-preoccupation over events of the past).
This week try picking a quiet area in your living space-indoor or outside. Sitting quietly in a chair or on the ground. Close your eyes and begin to focus on the beauty and the inner intelligence of your body and its ability to prepare you for every moment ahead. Let's now unencumber ourselves. Enjoy this moment and the knowledge that it has prepared you for everything you will have encountered and even for the movements that are ahead. As you feel your breath come in, let your rib-cage open and expand and as you release your breath notice any tension in your body feeling your shoulders relax as you begin let out any tension. You can relax and spend time with your closest ally at any moment during the day-you. A good exercise is to breath in slowly to the count of six and hold it for a count of two and then release your breath to the count of eight. This breathing has been known to create a relaxed feeling of well-being and calms your limbic system down when you are feeling stressed. During this time focus on the positive aspects of your life that are unfolding. Better yet focus on aspects of things to be thankful for and let any burdensome or troubling thoughts leave with your out-breath.
These are the moments that give us breath and may lead to life-changing decision by which you may measure you life. This type of breathing is mindful, promotes self-awareness and has the power to change your life!