It began to dawn on me weeks ago that encouraging my clients to breathe was like encouraging my clients to do a mathematical equation. Focusing on air passing in and out of our nose or in the rise and fall of our chest does not feel good so how could it provide the intended emotional support? I wasn't teaching my clients to focus on breath in this way but those are the standard instructions. I remember following them myself when I was learning how to meditate. I knew that breath was a focal point, but it otherwise meant nothing to me. I certainly didn't rely on it to make me feel better.
The issue I realize now is that those instructions feel so surface. They feel physical but in an external way and because of that, that manner of mindful breathing offers very little internal support.
My breathing finally started to matter once I became emotionally connected to it. Once it began to feel like a part of me.
This happened when I began to notice internally how deep breathing affected my internal state. The first couple breaths I take are usually shallow until about the third or fourth breath. That hits a much deeper point within that seems to release internal tension and in doing so, creates space for anything I am feeling.
That deeper point, I like to think, is my core. The center of my intuition. My compass.
I consider it my still point.
The place where calm resides. A place I can always return to. And each time I breathe, I carve it out more and more.
With this breath.
And now this breath.
Continuously returning me to the present moment and returning me to myself when I get triggered or intimidated or otherwise leave myself in any way.
Your breath becomes an invitation to know your emotional experience much more intimately.
Focusing on the internal sensation of your breath invites you to then notice the internal sensation of other experiences and how they live in your body: such as anxiety, longing, impatience, love. It invites you to be aware of your embodied experience and with greater awareness comes deeper presence - something that others can feel when they are around you.
In times of stress or overwhelm, the idea is not to fight your way back to calm but to create space around your feelings using your breath. That space serves as a container.
The deeper your breath, the more space you create.
The deeper your breath, the stronger the container.
As you contain, so do you love. Rather than anxiety (or anger or sadness) running rampant, spinning cruel thoughts, you instead hold it mindfully, lovingly in the palm of your being.
From this holding place, you empower yourself to observe and understand what you are feeling. Such intimate attention will always provide you with the answers and the wisdom of what to do next. You then have the power to mindfully channel whatever you are feeling into art. Into dance. Into a much needed conversation. You get to own your feelings rather than having them own you.