Have you stopped for a moment today to marvel at your magnificent breath?
If not, I invite you to stop for a moment, check in with yourself and see if you notice where you are most aware of your breath in your body. When we teach mindfulness to young children, we suggest that they place one hand on their chest and the other hand on their tummy to help them find their breath. You can do the same. Notice if your breath feels deep or shallow? Fast or slow? When we tune in to our breath in this way we do so with no agenda to change it or wish for it to be different. We are simply noticing. We might like to smile while we notice our breath and this allow us to begin to relax. Smiling on our out breath allows the body and mind to release anything it no longer needs and just let go. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, suggests that during our in- breath we silently say to ourselves ‘I know I am breathing in’ and when we breathe out we say ‘ I know I am breathing out’. He explains that using the words ‘I know’ is important. Our breath is the link between our mind and body. When we say these words we are acknowledging that link, and coming into the present moment. The present moment is where our life is. Our life is not in the past, which has gone and it is not in the future which has not arrived. Our life is here and now in this very moment. Acknowledging this is the key to feeling calmer, happier, less stressed.
I often silently give thanks for my breath. If you stop for a moment to reflect, isn’t it amazing that you don’t have to remind your wonderful body to breathe? You don’t have to wake up in the morning and have a reminder on your phone which tells you to breathe. Even more amazing it all continued to happen while you were sleeping. We take our first breath when we are born and will depart this earth on our final breath. Do you sometimes feel that we take the period in between just a bit for granted? Thich Nhat Hanh also suggests in his beautiful book , A Pebble for your Pocket that every house should have a breathing room or at least a breathing corner. Anyone in the house who is feeling angry, tense or sad can go to the breathing corner and spend some time connecting with their breath. After a while you will begin to feel better and you may have avoided a full scale argument with another family member. Can I go one step further and suggest that every workplace should have a breathing room too?
You are living this precious life you have been given, housed in your precious body whilst breathing your precious breath. It’s all a bit of a miracle really. We rarely stop to consider our breath unless we are having problems. Perhaps we run for the bus and find ourselves short of breath or we try and hold our breath to swim underwater. All of a sudden we are acutely aware of our breathing.
Most of the time it is all happening automatically and we take it for granted. When we first begin to practise mindfulness we are encouraged to notice our breath. When our mind wanders off into thinking, pulled into the past and the future there is always an opportunity to come home to our breath. After all, we breathe in the present we don’t breathe in the past or the future. Being mindful is not difficult, but it takes practice. If you have spent the past few weeks watching the Olympics you will have heard all of our medal winners without exception talk about practising their discipline. You will have watched them focus and concentrate before their event where I’m pretty sure they were all aware of their breath practising mindfulness. Join them in marvelling at your precious breath.