slow, deep, quiet, and even
We cannot always will ourselves to be calm and centered when under stress, but we can will our breath to change. When our breath changes, everything changes--it is the one body function that is under both voluntary and autonomic control. By inviting our breath to have slow, deep, quiet, and even qualities, our nervous system delivers those qualities effortlessly to our whole system.
At a recent breath workshop at the studio, we experimented with various simple techniques. Not one of the particpants could remain upset when they tried techniques that slowed, deepened, and quieted their breath. There is a completely symbiotic relationship between thoughts, feelings, and breath. Breath is the most profound gateway to change.
Doubt that our thoughts effect our breath? Try an experiment. Think of something that causes you distress, then notice what your breath is doing. Tight? Held? Constricted? Now let that thought float down a stream and think of the most peaceful place you know, and attend to your breath again. Soft? Easy? Relaxed?
Doubt that our breath affects our thoughts? Try this. Think once again of something stressful, and notice how it affects your body. Inhale through your nose by a count of four, hold four, exhale through the mouth by a count of four, hold the exhale by four...Repeat 4 times. What has happened to the stress?
Another experiment to try is thinking of two options you are stuck between. Think of one and the other, and notice how your breath responds. Sometimes I stop breathing when I think of one option, or an involunary inrush of breath comes in with the other. It is such an intimate way of connecting my wise spirit and brilliant body. I utterly trust it.
I have come to use the words "slow, deep, quiet, and even" as a mantra throughout the day, especially when I get tense. There are millions of breathing techniques out there, but this is an interesting shortcut. It invites the quality of breath we're hoping for, but trusts the body to get us there. It works, and not just on the breath...my whole being begins to embody these qualities. My listening, seeing, feeling, thinking all become slower, deeper, quieter and more even.
It is miraculous.
It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still,
and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes space for imperfection.
The harsh voice of judgment drops to a whisper
and I remember again that life isn’t a relay race; rthat we will all cross the finish line;
that waking up to life is what we were born for.
As many times as I forget, catch myself charging forward without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice to stop,
to breathe, and be,
and walk slowly into the mystery.