Would you like to breathe with me for a minute? It won’t take long, and I think we could both use a tiny break.
I am currently working in a couple of very fast-paced restaurants to save up for my next journey. I’ve noticed that many people around me tend to forget a couple of things—one is optimism. Another is breathing.
As a line of customers grows at the door, more food appears at the window and voices increase in volume, our legs move faster and we forget. When every table is suddenly full and we need five extra sets of hands, we forget. When the weeds begin to creep up our legs (“being in the weeds” = being in deep sh*t in restaurant talk), we forget.
We forget. To. Breathe.
Of course, we don’t really stop breathing; rather, we forget about breathing. We forget that our lives depend on it. Our breath becomes shallow and undernourished.
As a Vinyasa yoga instructor, I feel like I am constantly reminding people to breathe and breathe deeply. To connect with their breath and all that. Maybe it is beginning to spill out into other parts of my life, for better or worse, because lately, I find my inner yoga teacher showing up uninvited to stressful situations.
So hold on a minute. Breathe with me.
Your boss can wait. The food can wait. Even your kids can wait.
Breathe with me. Inhale. Really inhale. Your heart is racing? You have a million things to do now? Okay. Hold on, just a second, and inhale. Your body is alive, and it demands a near-constant flow of oxygen to stay that way, so breathe it in.
In my opinion, the greatest trick to waiting tables, making it through college and, I would imagine (going out on a limb here), raising kids, is figuring out how to stay calm. Everyone arrives there by their own road, but breathing is a fundamental tool to have in your survival bag.
I have never had a talent for multi-tasking, and an excess of demands will still overwhelm me sometimes. However, at some point I started to keep my breath even and my heart rate low during moments of chaos. I stopped trying to do everything at once, and focused on doing one thing at a time. Sometimes, that thing would be breathing. It was a revelation.
Now, exhale. Completely.
The customers are still there, food is still waiting, everyone is still shouting. Nothing has changed in the last few seconds. And yet, everything seems slower. Lighter. Gentler, even.
Unless you work in an ER, fire department, or some similarly grave profession, your actions are probably not a matter of life-and-death. And even if they are, taking that second or two to breathe will probably improve, not inhibit, your performance.
So breathe with me. Again? Why not.
Sometimes, I notice people’s hands beginning to shake as the pressure builds inside them.
“Do you want to breathe with me?” I always want to ask, only half jokingly.
Last night I finally did ask, and I wondered why I had waited so long.
As you remind yourself to breathe, perhaps you can remind others too. Maybe your concern will be well-received. Maybe not, and that’s alright. But maybe you will give someone the gift of breath.
Inhale. Really inhale. This breath is everything.
Now, exhale. Completely.
Nothing has changed in the last few seconds. And yet, everything is a little bit better.
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Editor: Travis May