“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
I can still hear my mother saying “Take a deep breath and tell me what’s wrong” to one of her children crying hysterically. What my mother knew then that I know now is that taking a deep breath calms the moment down allowing us to regain our composure. We move out of an emotional state to a more neutral position, a place where we can rationally communicate, and express our emotions without emotion.
When I ride my bicycle I focus on my breathing which in turn allows me to focus entirely on the moment. I climbed what we would describe in these parts as a “Big Ass Hill” Saturday. I didn’t have the advantage of momentum where you race down one hill to climb another. The road was flat and then, taa daa there it was, 100 yards of 6% grade. Hills like this shock my system. I am a big guy and gravity only plays nice with me going downhill.
My routine for conquering any hill is simple, easy gear, and let my breathing dictate my pace. Once your breathing becomes laboured, when you find that you are gasping for air, you are done. My goal is to run out of air at the top, not in the middle.
Most of us view breathing as a simple reflex, something that we do without thinking. If you have ever participated in a physical activity that makes your heart beat 170 times per minute you understand that breathing isn’t just a reflex, it feeds your soul. All of the sudden breathing becomes something that you are very conscious of. It is no longer simply a motion that you go through, you feel it, see it, taste it, absolutely need it.
You don’t need to run a sub six-minute mile to be conscious of your breathing. You can do it sitting at your desk, or walking through the store. Focusing on the wonders of breathing is very meditative. You turn everything going on around you into two simple acts, breathing in, breathing out. Your mind becomes quiet, a place we all need to spend some time in even for just a minute or two each day.
Take a deep breath and tell yourself what’s wrong, or what’s right or better still don’t tell yourself anything at all. Get lost in the moment, the chaos of the world will wait for you to return.