Breath is the essence of life. From our first moments fresh from the womb until the last sigh of death we are breathing. Most of the time we breathe reflexively without thinking; inhaling and exhaling our way through morning routines, work, train or car rides, exercise, and sleep. Using the breath consciously as a tool is the first step to entering the mindful world of intimacy and love.
When we are present with our breath we can reach a place of focus, stillness, and inner peace that allows us to go deeper into ourselves and our experiences. Using conscious breathing practices enables us to calm the incessant chatter of the mind and become a witness to our thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When we are in this place of observing ourselves, we stop being our feelings and instead are aware of and not run by them.
For example, when feeling angry, a common response is to “see red” or “lose your head” and become so angry that it takes over every part of your consciousness. By using conscious breathing in moments like these, you can retain your sense of self and clarity of mind and be aware that you feel angry giving space and distance to the state of feeling instead of being swept away by the feeling itself. It is the difference between: “I AM ANGRY!” and “I feel anger.” In one way the anger is a part of your state of being that it becomes who you are just as you might say, “Hi, I’m George.” Mindfully, through focus and breath, you can separate yourself and become the observer of your feelings so that “I’M ANGRY” is changed to “I am George and I feel angry.” Breath is the key to unlocking the inner worlds of yourself in order to live from a place of peace. It is only from this place of calm and peace that we can sit with ourselves, know ourselves, and then begin to know another.
Lauren is a fresh faced 25-year-old woman just getting her feet wet in the adult world. She is independent, responsible, and motivated. Since high school she has always had a boyfriend and referred to herself as a “serial monogamist.” She described that having a boyfriend gave her the chance to express her loving, nurturing, caring side that was very much a part of her joy. When one relationship fell apart for some reason or another, Lauren was often quick to find someone else to fill that need for feeling love and being loved. She had left her past relationship feeling disappointed, annoyed, confused, and jaded about love. She described herself as always putting so much into a relationship and the other person but never getting enough back from her partner. She would take the initiative setting up dates, romantic outings, and always gave the best and most thoughtful gifts. She thought of herself as being good at relationships and a great partner, and probably was for many of the men that she dated, but yet Lauren always felt unfulfilled. She often found their faults and very rarely recognized her own feelings, expectations, and behaviors that contributed to the relationship losing its spark or coming to an end. Not one of her partners was able to give her what she gave them and satisfy her need for feeling loved.
We use the the breath as a guide to come to the present moment. This allows us to become like the “moose walking through the forest” and for the inner observer, watcher or witness of one’s feeling states, emotions, physical sensations and conversations to arise. Without focus and intention the mind goes on automatic chatter making up stories and meaning incessantly.
As Eckhart Tolle says “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is.” In the “moose” or witness state one gets to be connected with oneself, tap into stillness and peace – and that’s the space where we find intimacy. We invite you to connect with your “moose” by offering the following practice:
Conscious Breathing Practice
- Sit comfortably in a chair or on a cushion on the floor
- Close your eyes
- Place your right hand on your belly below the navel
- Exhale all the air emptying yourself out
- Take in a deep breath down into your belly expanding your belly like a big balloon
- On the exhalation notice the belly flattening
- Take in a deep breath again into the belly extending your belly into your hand
- On the exhalation again notice the belly flattening
- Continue breathing in this pattern for a total of 10 breaths
- Inhaling witness the rising of your belly – exhaling witness the falling of your belly
Upon completion notice how you are feeling and how your body is feeling. Become aware of any sensations and your state of mind at the present moment.