February 20, 2014

Take 3 Breaths. Seriously. Do it Now.

Breathe 1 Photo by Julie van Amerongen

In my research on personal practice, I interact with extraordinary people who are intensely committed to their practices.

Many of these practices are not for the faint of heart. They take time, energy and superhuman dedication.

It can look like rising at 4:30 am to hit the gym for a ferocious bout of CrossFit or a relentless workhorse of a schedule including countless hours spent at the piano, easel, writing desk or on the golf course.

It’s hard not to have a lot of respect for the folks for whom this works, and to recognize that for many of us, this probably won’t happen.

For me, practice is not about taking a lot of time. It’s about making small bits of time to fit in simple, impactful practices.

Pilar Gerasimo, founding editor of Experience Life Magazine agrees. She explained her uncomplicated five minute practice to me in a recent interview:

“On waking, while coffee is brewing but before I’ve looked at any screens or turned on any electronic devices, I take a minimum of five minutes to light a beeswax candle and do something quiet and lovely for myself. I may do yoga, meditate, play guitar, pull a wisdom card, journal, read a passage in an inspiring book, or just breathe and look out the window. At the end of the practice, I take three deep breaths while focusing on my intention and vision for the day. Then I blow out the candle and move into action.”

My friend Robyn has a similar, uncomplicated approach to practice. She takes “breathing breaks” throughout the day where she simply stops and takes three deep breaths. She notes how immediately a frenetic pace can shift or a less than favorable attitude changes.

The team at my workplace starts our morning meetings with three minutes of silence. We find that when we begin our work together after those three minutes, we are more present, focused, precise and concise.

Our short and simple commitment to a few minutes of practice brings more intent and focus to our day and makes all of us together more efficient, effective, and happy.

Inarguably, there is real benefit for ourselves and all of those around us when we practice these humble rituals.

The key to sticking with it is in making the practice appealing and achievable. When we look forward to our practice it becomes second nature, and conspicuous in its absence.

Similar to avoiding an overzealous approach to unrealistic new years resolutions, we need to be mindful that our approach to practice need not be heroic.

You may not have time for hours of meditation, exercise, training or learning, but everyone can make time for three deep breaths or five minutes of something intentional that is pleasurable.

As always, practice is a choice—a choice to direct your current experience of life on your own terms. And if you choose practice, even for just a few minutes, you pretty much guarantee yourself that things are going to go better than if you don’t.

As Gerasimo says: “ I’ve realized that wherever I skimp on my own health and happiness just to ‘get more done,’ I cheat myself and everybody around me out of the best I have to offer.”

Who wants to do that?

So the next time you think you don’t have time to practice, just listen to yourself. Really, don’t you have a moment for a few breaths or a few minutes for some practice goodness? Wouldn’t you rather bring an elevated version of yourself to everything you touch?

As my wise friend Lynn always says: Take three breaths. Seriously. Do it now.

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: courtesy of the author

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