(How to breathe your breath)
You’d think it’d be easy. I mean, you can live, what, 3 minutes without breathing before your brain starts to die. It’s an autonomic reflex. No one teaches you to breathe. From your very first moment, you come into this world a breathing pro. But life and stress and posture and people and conditioning sometimes ruin your natural ability. (Honestly, how many times in your life have you thought,“Suck in,” or caught yourself slumping and rounding, smushing your lungs into the tiniest of spaces?)
You see, your lungs are pear-shaped, (with much more space at the bottom than at the top), squishing your lungs up is the worst thing you can do to yourself! You breathe shallowly, only exchanging the bit of stale air at the *top* of your lungs with fresh air, seriously curtailing your intake of oxygen. Compound this over days, weeks, months, years… you can see where this is a problem. What follows are some simple tips on how to breathe your breath.
Re-Minding myself (a surefire cure for shallow breathing)
Of late, I have started to carry a reminder with me: meditation beads. Mine are white sandalwood on knotted brown string, with a tassel at the end. There are 108 of them. I wear them on my neck, or wrapped around my wrist. “Got a sec? Breathe!”, they remind me. At least once a day I try and hold them, taking a mindful breath in and out for every bead. That way no matter how stressful my day is, I know that I got in at least 108. It takes about 10-15 minutes, and I always feel better when I do it. Always. Like, always. More awake, more alert, more grounded, more chill. It’s good for your circulation, and I can actually raise my body temperature just by doing breath-work.
A thoroughly un-scientifical experiment
A few years ago I wound up in the hospital. I was hooked up to a bunch of monitors and IV, and I was so weak that I couldn’t even hold a book up to read. (Needless to say, I was bored outta my skull.) My blood oxygen levels were a little low (94 or 95%), so I started my mindful breathing. In just a few minutes, it was up to 100%. I was witnessing, in real time, that what I was doing was working. It made me profoundly aware of my breath. And profoundly interested in it. “Got a sec? Breathe!”
This One’s a Doozy, and most likely thousands of years old!
There is an old Chinese proverb that says that you are not given a set number of years on this earth, but you are given a set number of breaths. If that’s true, then just by elongating the breath, by breathing mindfully, you are extending your time on the earth. I want to be around for a long time. And so I breathe.
Now, whenever I see my beads on my wrist, around my neck, or even hanging on the hook in the bathroom, I think about my breath. And I breathe. Even when I don’t see them, sometimes I just think about them, and I am reminded, and take a mindful breath. And even one mindful breath is better than no mindful breaths, right? Try it. Lemme know how it goes. Got a sec? Breathe!