By: Prianca Naik
Minute to minute, hour to hour, it keeps you alive. It is the one thing you can infallibly count on during this journey. When all else fails, and I feel alone, I can turn to my breath; it is my life’s anchor, tethering me firmly to the ground. Like a Swiffer sweeper doing some spring cleaning, the breath clears the mind of its cobwebs. You can breathe a sigh of relief after both. Your feelings and sensations are simply a side show of the main attraction, the breath.
You hold it in with all your might before taking a dive into the depths of the Pacific Ocean off that snorkeling boat in the Great Barrier Reef. It begins to lose its rhythm and quicken its pace at the sight of the open ocean along with the endless absence of land. When you exert yourself mentally or physically, your breath shortens between each exertion and quickens in increments. Its speed allows your muscles to acquire more oxygen to gain momentum. You desperately gasp for air when you are deprived from it for too long.
You may exhale to signify the beginning of an arduous task. You probably take a long breath, sighing, when you feel overwhelmed or fatigued and afterwards, may feel a sense of relief. It may fail you when it halts upon the reception of shocking news. The sudden passing of a relative drives the breath away momentarily. You soon realize it returns without even a millisecond of a thought to go searching for it.
Lamaze classes have been using the breath as its cornerstone for years. Can you imagine, the simple breath keeps you focused during an experience as grueling as childbirth? The breath comes to the rescue when you forget your lines in your sixth grade play. It mimics your mother practicing with you, feeding those lost lines to your brain. Similarly, the breath centers you if you focus on it when feeling sad, angry, lost, anxious, depressed, or lonely. Mindfulness meditation allows the meditator to focus on the present moment instead of getting carried away with emotions, sensations, and thoughts. The breath is the key piece of this practice.
I used to ruminate on a lot of garbage. And, in fact, I took pride in this absurd practice, thinking I was so intelligent and introspective. (Insert game show buzzer sound signifying incorrect answer here). I most certainly had it all wrong. I was wasting time on all of this crap, allowing it to occupy my mind. Once I began to practice mindfulness, I was able to really start living. I was able to be present, instead of metaphorically wandering off here and there. My breath showed me how to do that. After months of mindfulness, I started to value my breath, which I had taken for granted my whole life. Stop, notice, and perhaps give a moment of thanks to that which gives you life, keeps you grounded, and saves you from yourself.