Photo by A6U571N
By Stephen Cox
Breathing is the one thing we all do the moment we emerge into the world and it’ll be the last thing we all do right before we leave. Breathing as we all know is a constant necessity for continued physical existence. We must all breathe a number of times a minute and when you take a moment to consider the beauty of breathing a number of important facts become readily apparent and can act as a grounding force to bring you back from being caught up in day-to-day trivialities.
For instance, when I contemplate breathing the very first thing that strikes me is how very interdependent the whole process is. The breath is actually the main method of waste disposal used by our bodies. We expel what to our bodies are toxins and take in what we need to live. The toxins we expel are used by other organic life forms such as plants and they in turn expel the oxygen we need to live. The deeply interconnected and lovingly symbiotic relationship is there for each of us to see and fully experience each and every moment.
Anytime you’re feeling disconnected from things, you may like to contemplate the simple act of breathing and use it to literally ground yourself. Much of the time we breathe without conscious effort or direction. Breathing is the only system in the human body that is able to be controlled consciously or unconsciously. This is a very important fact.
“Smiling is very important. If we are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace. It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Our bodies have a number of feedback loops that we can take advantage of. Smiling is the source of one very effective feedback loop. We smile when we feel good. Often we see someone else smiling, feel good and so smile in return. The important point is that this loop works backwards as well as forwards. Often we may have little control over how we are feeling due to the overwhelming nature of external events and circumstances.
However, we all have more then enough control over our physicality. If I was to ask you to make a fist or pull a funny face most people have no problem completing such tasks 100% of the time. So when you’re not feeling so good try this experiment – put a huge smile on your face and hold it there for sixty seconds. At first it may feel completely fake and perhaps much more like a grimace than a smile. But well before the sixty seconds are up something interesting will begin to occur. You’ll start to feel better. By taking on the physicality of happiness the feedback loop works in reverse and you’ll start to actually feel happy. As that feeling grows the smile becomes more natural and the feedback loop continues.
Breathing can be used in exactly the same way. Much of the time, the way we breathe reflects how we are feeling. If you’re stressed, angry or nervous your breath may become short, shallow or fast. If you want to change how you’re feeling change your breathing by taking conscious control of it. Breathe deep down into the belly. Breathe through your nose and make each inhalation and exhalation a slow steady process. Within moments you’ll begin to calm, feel more relaxed and confident. It is little wonder that the breath is the focus of so many types of meditation.
Final Thoughts on Breathing
The process of breathing is at the very core of our experience of being alive. It changes moment to moment but yet in a way is constant. There is difference in the sameness and sameness in the difference. An amazingly wondrous experience is available to us each and every moment. Simply stop for just a moment each day and experience the joy of breathing. Experience the sensation of your very existence.
What do you think? Please share any thoughts or suggestions related to breathing you have in the comments below.