I can only speak for myself, but over my years in therapy I full-on resisted my therapist’s instructions to “just breathe”. Not because I was insolent, but because I had no idea what she was talking about. To me, breathing was one of those involuntary bodily functions and I had no sense of its importance, other than the obvious task of keeping me alive.
Notice I said keeping “me” alive, as if I was my body. I had no understanding that breathing is more than just a physical requirement. I felt that for all the time, energy and money I was spending on psychotherapy, that I should be given “more” than such a platitude.
I fought this seemingly simple exercise for decades convincing myself that “talking” was going to be my pathway to healing. (I think Woody Allen and I have this idea in common). Talking did help. In fact, it helped a lot. But had I also incorporated breathing meditation, my guess is I would have healed more deeply, faster, and with less drama. And I certainly would have found the connection I had spent years looking for. To be clear, I am not chastising myself, but merely observing my experience to make a point.
In my relatively unenlightened efforts to become more aware, more self-aware, I have been better about my relationship to my breath. The following are things I have noticed about paying attention to one’s own breathing:
- Breath is somewhat ethereal. What I mean by this is that it is clearly in existence, but there is something about it that is not fully anchored in the three dimensional world. For lack of a better word, its nature is somewhat elusive.
- Breath is like a portal to the ultimate “ah ha”. When one becomes even modestly aware of the rise and fall of their chest, the way air “feels” as it surrounds them and is pulled into their lungs and the way it magically keeps the body nourished, it is impossible not to have that feeling that there is “something going on”. That “something going on” is a sense of being part of a massive ‘living’ in ways words cannot articulate.
- Breath is our personal “Fed Ex Guy”: Fed Ex does a great service in “bringing” things to people all over the world. In a way, they are in the business of making connections. Through them, people, businesses, and material things are all brought together. I have noticed that breath seems to do this for the body, thoughts, soul and the Universe (whatever this may entail). Breath delivers sensations, nourishment, feelings and emotions to us in one central point that is not entirely material nor spiritual.
My goal in noting these observations is to encourage others who may also resist the simple act of breathing as a free and reliable tool for healing and connecting to “all that is”. So to answer the question above, yes, just breathe. Breathe and pay attention to it. Pay attention to the rhythm, the feeling, the pressure, the pace, the mystery and the ticket it gives you to that ‘something going on’.