In. Out. In. Out. Breathing. It’s automatic. We don’t even have to think about it. I had a dear friend check in on me to see how I was doing. She told me that she had been breathing for me, and I was thankful. Lately there have been times I seemed to have stopped breathing. Was I holding my breath or just refusing to breathe? Maybe I’ve just paused more often than usual. I generally pause to absorb something, to make it last. I hold my breath when I don’t want to feel. Then I inhale again and nothing has changed. Still I know breathing fortifies my lungs and caressing pain strengthens my soul, so I have faith all will be well.
I’ve been really tired and just can’t seem to catch up on anything, especially sleep. Again, I went to bed early last night and woke up about 2:00 am to the snoring of my dog. Her breath chugged, chortled, and shimmied like a freight train. I lay there and listened to her until she finally woke herself up. Beside me my husband slept peacefully…gently his breath filled and emptied his lungs to a beautiful cadence. I put my hand upon his chest and felt the rhythm as it rose and fell with each beat of his heart. In. Out. In. Out. Automatic. He was totally unaware of God blowing the wind throughout him. What a gift we are given and often take for granted.
I never thought much about breath until years ago when I learned to detect and halt oncoming panic attacks. I was taught to control these episodes with breathing techniques. It was a successful strategy for me. Eventually this knowledge blended into the past, forgotten until about a week or so ago. I awakened to heightened breathing and the old familiar sensation of impending doom. I settled into a comfortable spot and concentrated on my breath. In and out, slow, long, and methodical until the fear melted away and breathing once again became automatic.
I began to tend my breathing again. In the following days, I was instantly alerted if my breaths became rapid, shallow, or out of my ordinary pattern. I noticed that my breathing shifted during moments of anxiety or other intense emotions. Breathing, this effortless task had become labored for me. My spacious and inviting breath became tense and cramped. As I exhaled, the heaviness in my diaphragm tightened, moved above my ribcage, and caught, stifled in my throat. As I swallowed, the air quickly moved to stop at the base of my throat and spiraled to an emptiness in the base of my stomach. Each time I focused on the intake and outtake, I regained balance. I not only centered my breath but my attitude.
I recognize that I have allowed my emotions dominate me. In turn, my thought process compromised my breath. I am also aware that if I let go of ego and get back into the moment, my breathing will take care of itself. Just by concentrating on sensation, my breathing is less restricted and more calming.
Yet, breath is simply air. You and I partake of the same substance. I pass it to you, and you to me. This space between us sustains us.
The average person takes in 21,600 breaths a day. How many of them do any of us actually notice?