We breathe continuously from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Everything around us changes between these two points – nothing remains the same – except our breath. In our age of distraction lies the paradox, that your brightest future relies on your ability to pay attention to the present, the now moment upon which our entire life unfolds. And yet we’re always busy doing something, obsessing over productivity, allowing little time to practice stillness and find peace within, when it’s becoming conscious of our breath alone that propels us into the full participation of being human.
It’s only breathing that’s constant between birth and death. In India they call the breath ‘prana’ which means vitality, energy, aliveness. Your life is your breath, and the movement of your breath is like a mirror to the movement of your mind. When you are scared or anxious, your breath becomes short and shallow. When you are calm it’s generally deep, satisfying and fulfilling.
“A person who doesn’t breathe deeply reduces the life of his body. If he doesn’t move freely, he restricts the life of his body. If he doesn’t feel fully, he narrows the life of his body. And if his self-expression is constricted, he limits the life of his body.” ― Alexander Lowen
There’s simply no better way to bring yourself into the present moment than by bringing awareness to your breathing. It is an anchor from distraction that’s always available to you at all times. By placing your awareness on what’s happening right now we find a direct path to presence and stillness. And so focusing on the breath is for many, the preferred method of orienting themselves to the now.
PEACE IN EVERY BREATH
Your body is part of the universe we live in. Everything in your body is part of the universe. Every cell, every particle. Your breath is the bridge and if the bridge is broken, you are no longer in the body. Not really here. We instead tend to be lost in thought. Ever have those days fly by without feeling as if you were ever actually really there.
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” – thich nhat hanh
True peace and equanimity can not be found in this endless narrative of busy thoughts. When the mind is overwhelmed with constant thinking, we can become stressed, drained of energy and fed up. Not surprising when the brain representing only 2% of our weight, consumes over 20% of our energy.
Though stress itself is generally caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’. Use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again and return to the present. Here, with practice – notably meditation – you can find a sense of deep peace, tranquility, and alertness. This is why meditation is a core practice in the eastern spiritual frameworks. It cultivates a kind of peaceful awareness that seems to gracefully ooze through into every aspect of waking life.
WITH PRESENCE COMES PRODUCTIVITY
Without presence life passes you by. We hear others discussing in disbelief how fast the years are flying. This is a lack of being (breathing). Presence means being at home in ourselves, being here, whole, and feeling fully into our sensory experience. Otherwise we’re neither participating in nor fully experiencing our life.
With modern culture hammering us with advertising billboards and radio adverts that tell us how to look and what to buy it can seem difficult to find time to just be with ourselves. Add the internet to the mix and we have an endless sea of distraction that can easily lure us into opening 17 tabs and exploring instant gratification in the form of amusing cat gifs. But generally that form of procrastination is accompanied by a lack of presence and often some underlying guilt that spoils the experience. With presence comes productivity. There is nothing more productive than actually taking action, but the foundation of effective action is a clarified mind. And we once again fall back to the failsafe technique of mindful breathing to rebalance the muddled mind.
CHOICE AT EVERY MOMENT
You have a choice at every living moment, to be or not to be? To be in (being) the breath or not to be in the breath. And so in connecting with our natural respiratory rhythm we return to our natural state. Moving from human doings back to human beings.