In this transition to fall, I’ve gotten sucked in. To being busy, doing too many things at once, running around, multitasking. I’ve been making mistakes, getting sloppy, becoming frustrated, and feeling lost and disconnected. I’ve been holding my breath.
To get it all done, I pressure myself to respond immediately to texts and emails… and I ignore my children. I feed my chickens in a preoccupied, frenzied state… and I forget to lock their coop. I move through cued poses in yoga class… and get agitated when the flow is too slow. Abiding the sequences, I’m thinking in checklists. Wanting to execute and perform (check), I maneuver through life (check), and (paradoxically) end up exactly where I don’t want to be: not present, not belonging, and not me.
By definition, a checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure. A checklist not only implies judgment (the possibility of failure), but it also legitimizes an external standard. When applied to my daily life, a checklist transforms my passions into tasks. Instead of turning in and tuning in, I turn out and tune out.
Fall is the time of year when I need reminders to return to my breath. We hear it all the time in yoga. Breathe consciously. Breathe deeply. Connect to your breath. One breath, one movement. Breathe and release what no longer serves you. But why is breath so important?
On the most basic level, breath is simply a way of staying alive. Breath brings oxygen into our bodies and excretes toxins that can stagnate in and damage our vital organs. Our autonomic nervous system regulates our breathing. Most of us breathe about 20,000 times a day without even noticing. On average, we use just a third of our total breathing capacity. When our breath becomes short, shallow, quick, or irregular, our minds become anxious and our bodies tense. When our breath is deep, slow, and regular, we’re infused with a sense of calm.
Compared to automatic breathing, conscious breathing cultivates different effects on our physical, mental, and emotional beings. Conscious breathing is the essence of yoga, helping us connect with various, subtle, divergent energies inside us. Conscious breathing is meditation, a method for being present, and it allows us to move from one state of being to another. Breath is a tool, a choice, and a way of living—not just a way of staying alive.
Breathing is living in the present. We inhale the future and exhale the past. Breathing aligns the mind and the body. When we slow down our breath, body, and mind, we can notice, focus, feel, perceive, and understand. We may not always like our observations or sensations, but we’re aware of what’s inside and around us.
Take the hours that are available in your day. Breathe consciously and deeply so that you’re present, connected, mindful, alive, tuned in, turned on, and totally you.
In light and love,