Breathing on Purpose

As humans, we are required to breathe each and every day. Just like the plants, we need oxygen, food and water. Unfortunately, we can’t make our food from sunlight.

But breathing. We have control over this one. Lately, I’ve managed the practice of breathing on purpose. Now, if you don’t breathe on purpose, your body will supply oxygen and do your autopilot breathing for you, otherwise well…we wouldn’t be here right now, would we?

Breathe and Listen

Our bodies actually take good care of us. If we listened to our bodies, we would all probably be in wonderful shape, both physically and mentally. Still, some days, life takes over and pushes us over the edge. Those are the days we might catch ourselves and remind ourselves to breathe. Take three deep breaths, you say, and you can handle any situation. Calm yourself. Collect yourself. Recharge.

Whether it’s in the form of autopilot breathing or the intentional de-stressor, breathing is our friend. When we breathe on purpose, we are training our body to initiate this kind of deeper breathing all on its own, the kind of breathing you ask yourself to do when you feel stress or anxiety.

Only with my recent introduction to yin yoga have I been able to breathe on purpose and to make a connection between mind, body, and my environment. I’m a novice, but I feel it’s really made a difference in my life with only a couple of months of practice.

Let’s try some breathing

Here are some things I’ve learned:

Get comfortable: Lay down on your back or relax in a sitting position; dim the lights, and if you like, play some soothing music (check out the sample video). Feel the earth under yourself, no matter where you are.

Ocean breath: Close your eyes, start with an inhale from the belly and an exhale out the mouth with an ocean breath, as if you might fog up a window, but it doesn’t need to be as forceful as that. The inhale should come from a deeper place than your autopilot breathing. Let it fill your chest.

Breath In/Out the Nose: Resume more relaxed breathing in and out the nose; relax the jaw. Feel the space between your neck and shoulders. If you need a release, try an ocean breath.

Let the thoughts float away: You mind will race. Let the thoughts come and go. Think of them as leaves floating away. I have a visual for you below. 

Focus on your breath: Don’t worry if you lose your breathing. Just bring it back and resume the ocean breath.

Environment: If you mind is racing, check in with your environment. This helps you to be aware of your present moment. What noises do you hear? Do you feel the air over your skin? Make note of it and bring back your breath.

A specific focus: Sometimes a focus on something specific can be the breathing. Can you hear your heartbeat? Check in. You can also do some internal chanting: An “Ah” on your inhale and an “Om” on the exhale. Whatever sounds you choose.

Try a specific length of time: Try breathing for the length of a song and increase it as you like.

The most important thing is to relax. This is time for you.

Let the thoughts float away:

Breathing on purpose has given me that clarity of focus not unlike those matrix-like moments when the action slows and you can focus on the separate parts from the whole. That clarity of focus is you listening to your body.

Tune in next week when I will talk about how this listening to your body can help improve how you listen to the people in your life.

Here’s some soothing music from Garth Stevenson:

 

Meditation

In my Yin Yoga class today, the teacher read a passage from Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist. The words inspired me and I left the class with these thoughts. Maybe you could use them, too. I’m really loving my yoga class.

******************

Stay with your breath
Come back if you lose it
In the space between
Listen for the pulse of your heart
and be open to its wisdom

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering
is worse than the suffering itself.
And that no heart has ever suffered when
it goes in search of its dreams….”

Let your breath be a guide
Your senses a map
Let your heart soften and
absorb the sounds around you

Like individual grains of sand
We are separate
Let the earth take your weight
Together, we are one, all the same

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You don’t have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.

Paulo Coelho from The Alchemist

photo credit: Baker Beach – San Francisco via photopin (license)

Aside

I now have four items remaining to check off my list: thank you cards, going through my dad’s items in storage, selecting a marker for my dad’s grave, and writing a scathing letter to the management of my dad’s former residence. I will take great pleasure in that last item, and I know my dad would be so pleased with me to see me follow through. He often wrote letters to the newspapers with his opinions.

The management at his senior living community seemed only concerned with leasing my dad’s now vacant apartment. They had left me a message inquiring about the status and requesting the keys promptly due back at the end of the month. I was calm and cool until I realized that they had taken his name off his mailbox. I simply had asked what happened to his mail and what was the next step. The manager accused me of “disrespecting her,” firing back she had no idea what happened to his name on his mailbox. Didn’t she manage the place?

It was then that I expressed that she and her staff had zero compassion and not once had reached out to me or my family. As if I were in some dystopian novel, she explained to me that that it was against their policy to reach out to families who experience a death. Considering the population they serve, senior citizens, this policy is ridiculous, callous, and unacceptable. She then promptly asked if I would like to do a walk-through of his apartment. His empty apartment where he died. I was livid, stunned, but mostly numb. All I could say was, “No. Do I really need to be there?”

It will make me feel better to write this letter to the corporate office, especially if it prevents such horribleness from happening to someone else. Still, I feel I have this checklist to only delay the end of these death-related tasks as long as possible, because when they are all done, it will be over. What will be over? Then, I realize it will never be over. I know it’s my new reality that my life must go on, missing someone dear.

My dad is absent from my life, but I don’t like to think he is gone, only that he is somewhere else. It helps me to think he’s having a wonderful time and that he’s at peace. His version of heaven would probably be to spend it at the horse races where at the end of each race he would collect huge winnings; something he clung to in his life having no importance “up” there.

I talk to my dad, both out loud and to myself. I’d like to think he’s lingering and a couple of quirky things have happened; towels falling off their racks, his hat popping off the shelf, and a bottle of shaving cream turning up in my sister’s car. My mind is really open to anything at this point. I’ve taken up running only to hear myself breathe. When I ran before, I’d worry about distance and pace. Now, I just run; it doesn’t matter how far or how fast.

The favorite part of my run. Who cares where I am.
The favorite part of my run.

I’m also trying to meditate to shed all the rut thinking that comes with grief, namely the endless regret that manifests with losing someone. I’m told it’s all a part of grieving and it will get better, and that our grieving is as deep as our love. Grief is the price we pay for love.

Still I seek answers. I even ask Google questions like, “Why did you die? Where are you now? Does everyone have an appointed time to die?” Google is no help. I  went to a metaphysical store that provides readings, hoping to meet the Certified Angel Therapy Practitioner. Yes, there is such a thing. She wasn’t there as her job is only a summer gig. I may return to meet a Spiritual Medium. Don’t judge.

I left the metaphysical store with a pink rock: a rhodochrosite, 4th chakra for divine love self-acceptance. It will have to suffice and gives me solace. I grip it in my fingers and feel its smoothness, and I pray.

Shes a beauty.

Power or no power, I believe. Still moments when I am flooded with despair, awash in tears, feeling the depth of loss a little deeper still, I just want him back.

What’s the silliest question you ever Googled? Do you believe in the power of rocks and minerals? Have you ever used a Spiritual Medium?

The Solace of a Pink Rock