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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Take a Breather

I am always seeking the deeper meaning in things and stay open to signs of inspiration in my life. That said, I find it hilarious that I ran across this "sign" last week at a local pool. Hello blatancy!

How often during your day do you truly take a moment to breathe with full awareness? You might be surprised at how few times you actually know you are breathing at all.

Think about your day. Specifically consider the things you deem stressful in your life. Do you stop breathing just thinking about them? Chances are you might. And ironically, breath is life. The more deeply and consciously we breathe, the more deeply and consciously we tend to live our lives.
So, I would say it's time to breathe!

On Oprah last week, a young woman spoke of her struggles with her current economic situation. She and her husband invested their life savings in a bakery, and it was about to go under. She had come to the end of her rope and did not know what to do. Pastor Ed Bacon and Reverend Michael Beckwith stepped in immediately and asked her to consider things that were going well in her life, and to focus on those as opposed to the rough situation. She paused for a moment and began crying. She could not come up with one thing that was going right for her that she could focus on. Then, Reverend Michael reminded her that she was experiencing the greatest gift in her life every second: her life itself. Her breath brought her life. Her simple breath. He asked her to focus on the miracle of that breath and what it offered her ever single moment.
I find this truly profound.

To tell you to take a deep breath and relax is so common a mantra that most of us miss its true message. Focused and controlled breathing has the power to boost energy and defuse anxiety. In fact, the notion of breathing as therapy has ancient roots in pranayama, an aspect of yoga that means "expansion and control of cosmic power."

But I am going to tell you to take a deep breath. In fact, 10 of them. I have found that taking 10 slow, deep breaths is guaranteed to relax my body, mind and soul. It's an instant fixer of stress, slows down the racing thoughts and brings me back to the present moment, where I can be grateful for the breath in the first place. Ahh, that is much better.

If you really want to get a feel for how present you can stay with your breath, try this simple yet deceptively difficult technique used in Zen practice.
Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to force it.

To begin the exercise, count "one" to yourself as you exhale.
The next time you exhale, count "two," and so on up to "five."
Then begin a new cycle, counting "one" on the next exhalation.
Never count higher than "5" and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to 9, 12, or even 20.

Try to do 10 minutes of this form of meditation.

So, do yourself and everyone else around you a favor...and breathe. And remember, regardless of your situation you're never far from a sigh of relief.

Be well,

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