“Return to the Breath”

SOMETHING ANN AND I SAY to each other when life seems fretful and jagged is “Return to the Breath.”

It’s a compact admonition against spiraling out of control with what-ifs and oh-my-gods. Return to the Breath means sit (or stand, or walk) and pay attention to your breathing.

If you center your attention on breathing, you can’t help but connect to the moment you’re in — and know that The Moment is all you’ll ever have or exist in.

There are many schools and methods of breath control. One of my favorites, which I learned in the law-enforcement chaplaincy academy, is called “triangle breathing:” Inhale for a count of five. Hold for a count of five. Exhale for a count of five. Repeat until calm. The idea is to disengage the limbic system’s fight-flight-freeze imperative and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called the “rest and digest” system, and steer you to better choices.

It really works. No one ever made a good decision while undone by frantic emotion.

But Returning to the Breath can also be done by just watching and feeling the gentle, tidal force of your personal wind.

The breath goes in.

The breath goes out.


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