These are the words I read in an Omega magazine that arrived in a pile of mail on my doorstep. Just Breathe. It struck me how often I find myself doing the opposite.
Let me count the times I hold my breath or stop breathing:
Reading the news, listening to the candidates, watching a television show or movie that becomes tense and dramatic, exercising, putting on mascara, avoiding a possible accident on the highway, hearing a favorite song, opening an important piece of mail, listening to a friend tell an intriguing story – I can go on.
Just breathe – it’s a large just. An involuntary action of the body to receive oxygen should need no reminding. Just breathe also requires volition to calm down, slow mind activity and body movement, reduce stressors, notice one’s breathing, intentionally take stock and take care of ourselves.
When I feel sad, or anxious, I remind myself to breathe deeply because it calms the initial fight or flight feeling that jangles my insides. And in yoga and Pilates classes, the instructors remind us to breathe. Sometimes they take it a step further and tell us when to inhale and when to exhale – but the reminder helps – not just with the exercise, but with total bodily coordination and awareness.
Maybe just breathe is all about awareness. So elemental a function, so primitive, so necessary for life. To breathe in a zen way, however, raises the stakes. Can I use my breath properly to hold a note, to enjoy a sink load of dishes, to walk a bit further, to dance for long periods to a great band? Can I inhale deeply the scent of a flower in bloom or a newborn baby, and exhale just as deeply the bus exhaust that burns my nose and the remainder of a long day? Can I calm or invigorate myself with my breaths?
Breathing is a Big Just.