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Just Breathe

Grand Teton Mountains, Jackson Hole Wyoming

What do you do roughly 20,000 times a day, but rarely notice? If you are alive (which I hope you are if you are able to read this) I guarantee that you are doing it right now… that’s right you are breathing. The average person takes about 20,000 breaths a day, but most people rarely notice this life sustaining act.

As so many of us race through life constantly checking the new email, text message, or App notification from our smart phone, the simple act of breathing gets lost in the shuffle. However, it is important to not let breathing get lost in the shuffle, because the act of breathing is not only the gateway for bringing oxygen (fuel) into the circulatory system, but it is also a gateway into our physical and emotional states. This is because, when we enter into an anxious state, our breaths shorten and the pace quickens, which in turn speeds our heart-rate and sends signals throughout our nervous system system to release adrenaline and other chemicals in order to ready itself in case a true “fight or flight” response is needed. While this quick ramping up of the fight or flight mechanism is great when you are trying to outrun a tiger, it isn’t great for your cognitive abilities, your long term health, or for your emotional states.

If left unchecked this subtle yet continuous ramping up of the fight or flight mechanism can cause high blood pressure, chemical imbalances, gastrointestinal issues, general feelings of unhappiness, stress, and even full blown panic attacks, all of which can lead to serious physical and mental health problems.

The key is to slow down and use your breath as a guide into your physical, emotional, and mental states. For example, at work you may have a problem that is beginning to cause stress, but you may not pick up the fact that you are becoming stressed until it is too late. However, if you pay attention to your breath, you may notice that it is becoming shorter and more rapid long before you reach the level of being stressed. Therefore, you may be able to prevent yourself from becoming stressed, by simply being aware of your breath. If your breath begins to become shorter and/or quicker, try to take a moment to slow down and evaluate/deal with whatever stressor is present before it becomes an “issue”.

Since breath is essential for life, it also serves as a wonderful anchor for connecting to life, which allows you to be truly present and live in the now. By simply slowing down and “experiencing” your breath, you can tune into the world around you, and actually use your senses that are so often lost in the shuffle of life: 1) sight (what do you see around you? what colors? what textures?), 2) hearing (what do you hear? can you hear the sounds of nature?), 3) smell (what do you smell? can you tune into the various individual smells around you)? 4) feeling (what does your chair feel like, do you feel warmth/coolness?, can you feel the gentle tug of gravity? Can you feel your breath as it enters your body, expands your lugs, and exits your body?), 5) taste (what does  your food/drink really taste like? can you distinguish individual tastes?).

Many people have experienced the powerful and calming effects of breath in the form of “deep breaths” when they are angry  or stressed, or the instant relaxing sensation  associated with taking in a deep breath of fresh air. Don’t take your breath for granted, enjoy your breath, and most importantly, use your breath as both a guide and as an anchor in your life.

Practical Tip: One of the most basic forms of meditation is breath meditation. Breath counting, or breath awareness meditations are an essential part of many meditation systems, especially those based in Buddhism. Try sitting in a comfortable spot and simply experience the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your nose/mouth. Breathe slowly and deeply, really try and experience each and every sensation (is it cool/warm?, does it tingle?), feel and enjoy the experience or it as it fills, then leaves your lungs. As you exhale each breath you can count in order to form a “breath set” (1, 2, 3, 4 repeat), or you can simply focus solely on the sensations, whatever works for you. Give this a try for 15 to 30 minutes a day, and I bet you will see some amazing results.

If you enjoyed this piece, please share on social network sites, subscribe to this site, and share this site with others!

Also please check out my book, “The Path: Using the Religions of the World as a Guide to Personal and Spiritual Development.” (Click on the book cover to view on Amazon.com)

  1. October 17, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    Awsome life & health enabling info, Jason…and, I am glad you liked the post today on my WordPress Blog…this info of yours here, I believe would help with our spiritual awakening…know your body, and self & you will be awakened to the goodness in life.
    Pilamayaye yelo, Wakan Tanka
    HakiktaWin-Looking Back Woman

    • October 17, 2011 at 10:59 PM

      I am glad that you enjoyed it. I have enjoyed reading your site as well!

  2. Andrew
    October 18, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    Great post. I have recently discovered the blog and am enjoying reading through all of the posts. Thank you Jason

    • October 18, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      I am glad you are enjoying the site, and I hope you continue to enjoy it!

  3. October 20, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Love the connection you draw between mindfulness of the breath and of the objects of senses. Thanks for a really fantastic post. 🙂

    • October 20, 2011 at 11:14 PM

      I am glad that you liked it! I have found that during meditation my breath can be used as an anchor to calm my “monkey mind”, which then allows me to get in touch with my physical senses, which ultimately allows me to transcend into the spiritual realm.

  4. September 7, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    Greetings… I love your blog. Thank you for sharing yourself to the world. ~ Sue

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