No, not like that. That isn’t breathing.
That’s just the autonomous nervous system ticking over in low gear while you’re stuck in the traffic jam of life.
Breathe in for a count of 3. Hold for a count of 4. Release for a count of 5. Rinse and repeat.
That’s more like it… filling up your lungs and fully exhaling. Most importantly, place your awareness on your breath. You can feel the life-giving air flowing in and out of your body. You are no longer breathing autonomously.
You are using the #1 tool in the evolutionary toolbox.
Why is breathing so important?
Apart from the obvious, that is… that airy stuff coming in and out.
Conscious breathing achieves three things:
- It gets you out of the intellect, where anxiety loops endlessly
- It lets you communicate with your unconscious
- It connects you to the whole of creation
Let’s look at these three in turn.
Are you out of your mind yet?
Here’s a little experiment. Immerse yourself in something extremely mental, something that requires all your intelligence to make sense out of. Then try to place your awareness on your breath. Can you keep your mind fully engaged and at the same time follow your breath as it softly glides in and out of your body?
Conscious breathing is a great tool precisely because it takes you out of your mind. If you have developed your emotional intelligence skills, you will know this is a desirable place to be—particularly if you suffer from stress, anxiety or panic attacks.
Whenever we feel under stress it’s because our unconscious experiences a fear of some kind of shortage. It might be a shortage of money, food, water, security, love or even the end of life itself.
Our mind screams, “Do something about this NOW!” and we experience this silent scream as stress, anxiety and panic that bounces around our head like juggling chainsaws.
By focusing on your breath you shift your awareness away from the panicky voice and onto that silent, silky feeling of the breath flowing in and out.
By focusing on your breath you shift your awareness away from the panicky voice and onto that silent, silky feeling of the breath flowing in and out. Like everything, developing conscious breathing takes practice. Don’t give up.
We all have psychological traits—let’s be generous—that could use some improvement. Yet they seem to have a life of their own. They live inside us yet are completely unmanageable, surfacing at inappropriate times—whether that’s some kind of damaging habit like binge drinking or whether it’s deep anxiety.
If only we could communicate with that part of ourselves!
We can—and conscious breathing is the first step. It slows down the nervous system, calms the frazzled mind and allows us to begin a faint, fragile dialogue with our wounded unconscious. I’ll talk more about that in future tools.
In the meantime, relax and breathe. Keep your focus on it.
When you place your awareness on your breath, your breathing ceases to be unconscious and becomes conscious. With that simple act you cross a magical threshold. You leave the realm of the individual and enter that of the cosmic.
Conscious breathing connects you to the cosmos. The cosmos is abundant. Always. The universe always has enough of whatever it is your unconscious is stressed about. Feel it. As you consciously breathe, relax and feel the cosmos. It knows you’re there. It brings you all the air you can ever breathe.
That’s it. You’re an integral part of the universe. Relax.