This isn’t meant to be a physiological story (though it is one), nor even one of anatomy or energetics (though it is that too).
This is the story of the powerful, fearless, relentless, beautiful breath.
Now, before you continue reading—take a breath.
Let’s do it together…
Now repeat this five times.
How do you feel? Any different?
Maybe the mind has quieted just a little bit. Perhaps you settled a bit more deeply into your skin and bones, or released a little muscle tension. However, these are just byproducts of something bigger and more important.
I’m interested in the act and experience of breathing in this moment—an act so simple, so routine, so elementary that it seems almost laughable to put your attention on the task. But when 99 percent of our daily breaths are unconscious, unnoticed and unloved—maybe it’s time to tune in, just for a few of them, every single day.
How we observe our breath is ultimately how we experience our lives—whether we’re in our heads in “la-la-land,” drifting between memories and fantasies, or whether we are grounded in the present, here and now, fully aware of everything happening within our consciousness right now.
In my own experience, a single deliberate breath is the shortcut to full presence — to getting out of the mind for just a moment, and allowing oneself to awaken fully into our present reality. These opportunities for presence offer themselves up constantly. Something so routine, so “boring” as waiting for an elevator or washing our hands are enormously rich moments to plug in—to tune our full attention to the now.
Yesterday I was impatiently waiting in line to order takeout at a restaurant. I was (silently, to myself) having a make-believe argument with the woman ahead of me about how she should get off her phone and figure out what she wants, before it’s her turn to order, instead of making everyone wait. But in the midst of this tense, annoyed and fully human moment, I stopped myself.
I looked around and took everything in—the crying baby, the tired, sweaty waitress, the color of the room, the hum of the ice maker—everything. I took it all in, as I inhaled a slow, full breath.
Then, in that instant of exhale, I decided to let everything be okay—to allow that moment, and everything that it encompassed, to be absolutely perfect. I smiled to myself, as I let the inner dialogue gently pass with the clouds, and I placed my order.
Unlike food, or even water, a breath saves our life each and every moment. Just a couple of minutes without breath and the lights go out. The show is over. There is no more “you.”
How will we show appreciation for this truly holy experience? How will we each honor this temporary—though currently recurring—miracle of life?
Will we let them escape in short, tight exhales, when the body realizes it hasn’t exhaled in too long? Or will we savor each long, slow inhale and exhale, with an expanded belly and open chest?
These breaths are ours—for now. How many we have left…nobody really knows.
It’s up to us how we use these breaths.
We must take our time with them, because they are truly precious.
Let’s allow the breath—that powerful, fearless, relentless, beautiful breath—to be a significant and sweet part of our lives and experiences.
Finally, lets close this off deliberately, just as we began…