“Your life may change every day and in each moment, but the breath is a tool to anchor you. Allow it to be the constant thread around which you weave your life.” ~ Gaye Abbott, RYT, CMT
Here is some music to listen to while reading this post…it’ll add to the “experience” I’m sure
How often do we think about our breath, the sacred act of breathing? It’s the first thing we did when we were born and its the last thing we’ll do before we die. “Breathing is one of those few acts which, within limits, can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously. Unconsciously, breathing is controlled by specialized centers in the brainstem, which automatically regulate the rate and depth of breathing depending on the body’s needs at any time. Conscious control of breathing is common in many forms of meditation, specifically forms of yoga forexample pranayama unlike anapana which is only awareness of breath. In swimming, cardio fitness, speech or vocal training, one learns to discipline one’s breathing, initially consciously but later sub-consciously, for purposes other than life support. Human speech is also dependent on conscious breath control. Also breathing control is used in Buteyko method.” (Wikipedia, Breathing)
“Look at the Lamaze and Natural Birthing Techniques. When allowed and encouraged to, a woman will naturally move, moan, sway, change her breathing pattern, and rock to cope with contractions, eventually finding the right rhythm for her unique needs. As her contractions get stronger, her body releases endorphins—nature’s narcotic—to ease her pain. Breathing plays a key role in this process. Conscious breathing (especially slow breathing) reduces heart rate, anxiety, and pain perception. It works in part because when breathing becomes a focus, other sensations (such as labor pain) move to the edge of your awareness. Conscious breathing is an especially useful labor tool because it keeps the woman and her baby well oxygenated. It’s naturally rhythmic and easy to incorporate into a ritual.
And best of all, breathing is the one coping strategy that can’t be taken away from you—even if you’re stuck in bed attached to an electronic fetal monitor and intravenous fluids. Movements become rhythmic as she “finds her rhythm” or “gets into the groove.” She’s living in the moment, doing without thinking. To others, she appears to be in another world. She relaxes between contractions; she responds to contractions in the same way over and over again, rolling her head, breathing slowly, chanting, or praying.” (Lamaze International, Lamaze Breathing – What You Need To Know) I know I did – oh boy did I….
“We take our breathing for granted, usually breathing 12-16 times every minute without being aware of it. This is because whether it is fast or slow, whether we hold it or not, whether it is shallow or deep, the breath keeps going. Most of us don’t pay attention to the breath – the in-breath, the out-breath, how shallow or deep it is, it’s rhythm, how and when we hold our breath, the connection between our emotional state and breathing patterns, and interestingly how hard it is just to pay attention to such a simple thing. The only two times we usually start noticing it are when something happens to prevent us from breathing normally or when we start meditating or being mindful.” (Limpman, Franklin, Ph.D., Becoming Aware of Your Breath)
Think about the way you breathe. Do you breathe fully and freely? Does it come effortlessly? Do you fill your belly like a balloon, letting your chest rise and fall? With each breath you take in, you’re receiving from the universe and giving back to it. The common air we all breathe; that those before us have breathed and those after us will breathe, contain prana/energy/Chi. We absorb that into our bodies when we inhale in. “When you breathe deeply and fully, you are breathing the breath that feeds the Soul. This energy is part of the spiritual force of the universal energy, and it enters your body with every breath. The breath contains the vital energy of who you are.” (King, Jennifer Grace, Awaken Breath and Nurture You)
“We touch the sacred with each breath. With each breath, we just keep dipping into the sacred…Breath is the vehicle to return to God (the Sacred). This is the ground of all being. Breath is the vehicle that takes us beyond thought, form and into direct experience. The breath takes us beyond words, beyond our ideas, into our deepest truest nature.” (Frank Ostaseski, Founder of Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco and Metta Institute)
“As we grow older, unfortunately, we lose the freedom and expansiveness that were ours at birth. We become institutionalized, afraid of disapproval, punishment or abandonment. We experience unpleasant feelings that we don’t know how to handle. As a result, we begin to shut down. We learn to “control” ourselves, to “be good.” We sacrifice our desires for the approval of others. To control ourselves in this way, we unconsciously tighten our muscles and restrict our breathing. We discover that the less we breathe, the less we feel — and the easier it is to get along and ‘do the right thing.’
As adults, we tend to breathe small and shallow, mostly in the chest, with little visible movement. To make matters worse, most of us literally stop breathing for short periods 50 to 100 times a day. When we constrict or stop our breath, we lose touch with what is happening in the present moment — with how magical and wonderful it is just to be alive. Instead, we focus on the past and the future. Our minds race with thoughts — worrying, figuring and planning. We lose the freedom, joy and expansiveness that was ours at birth.
Miraculously, by directing your consciousness back to your breathing and learning to work with it, you can regain what has been lost. You can learn to let go of patterns of worry and tension which hold you back and return to natural, oceanic, full-body breathing. Like a baby, you experience the full feeling, possibility and connection of each moment. As you become aware of your breath and work with it consciously, you make a direct link into your autonomic nervous system, gaining access to a part of yourself that usually functions outside of conscious awareness. It is no accident that all meditation techniques in all religions are based on breathing. (Chanting, of course, is breathing with sound.) As our breathing gets fuller and deeper, we can feel ourselves softening, opening, getting more spacious inside. The breath takes us into our very core. It is no coincidence that in many languages and many sacred texts, the word for breath also means soul or spirit — psyche in Greek, anima in Latin, Ruach in Hebrew.” (Lyon, Bret, Ph.D., The Power of Breathing)
“Indigenous people globally accept the sacredness of the breath and the interconnection with the natural world. Some traditions, such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong have studied it for thousands of years, and in fact have created a science of breath. In the Native American Medicine tradition ‘Divine Breath’ is a noun. It means the manifestation of the divine spirit in all living beings. It is also called ‘life breath'”. (Abbott, Gaye, RYT, Sacred Breath)
“As the breath goes in and out, we feel a connection between the inside and the outside. Through breath, we are connected with all living beings. Breathing is restorative. It can cleanse us of toxins that have built up in the body and the mind. It can help rid us of worries and tensions and bring us back to our true nature and our true place in the timeless universe. This most basic and essential of all our activities can also be the most transformative.” (Lyon, Bret, Ph.D., The Power of Breathing)
I leave you with this wonderful guided meditation, entitled “The Full Awareness of Breathing”. Anne Naylor instructs us how to prepare for meditation in an article from the Huffington Post entitled 12 Simples Steps To Meditate for Relaxation. Go get into something comfy, find a nice cozy place and turn on some relaxing music. Place a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside the door. Light a candle and pay attention to your breathing. Watch your breath as it enters your body, and again as it leaves. Experiment with this technique. Breathe in to a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Breathe out to a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Repeat this at your own rhythm. After doing the counting, you might watch your breathing, allowing yourself to breathe more deeply than perhaps you do normally. Slow deep breaths will help you to relax and let go; to become more peaceful. And off you go…
“1) Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath.
Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.
2) Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath.
Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.
3) Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body.
Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.
4) Breathing in, I am making my whole body calm and at peace.
Breathing out, I am making my whole body calm and at peace.
5) I am breathing in and feeling joyful.
I am breathing out and feeling joyful.
6) I am breathing in and feeling happy.
I am breathing out and feeling happy.
7) I am breathing in and am aware of my feelings.
I am breathing out and am aware of my feelings.
8) I am breathing in and making my feelings calm and at peace.
I am breathing out and making my feelings calm and at peace.
9) I am breathing in and am aware of my mind.
I am breathing out and am aware of my mind.
10) I am breathing in and making my mind happy and at peace.
I am breathing out and making my mind happy and at peace.
11) I am breathing in and concentrating my mind.
I am breathing out and concentrating my mind.
12) I am breathing in and liberating my mind.
I am breathing out and liberating my mind.
13) Breathing in, I am observing the impermanent nature of all things.
Breathing out, I am observing the impermanent nature of all things.
14) Breathing in, I am observing the fading of the notion of the separateness of all things.
Breathing out, I am observing the fading of the notion of the separateness of all things.
15) Breathing in, I am contemplating letting go. (of the concepts of permanence and separate self.)
Breathing out, I am contemplating letting go. (of the concepts of permanence and separate self.)
16) Breathing in, I am contemplating liberation. (from the concepts of permanence and separate self.)
Breathing out, I am contemplating liberation. (from the concepts of permanence and separate self.)” (Louisville Community of Mindful Living, The Awareness of Breathing.)
Again, this is a guided meditation. I would find it more practical to record this a device and play it back for full effect. Or, you could incorporate this into a group meditation with someone reading it aloud.
At the end of your meditation, make sure to ground and center. Stretch and drink water. This will help you re-enter into the everyday mundane life.