May 7, 2020

Measuring Time in Breaths—A Message of Gratitude for the Moments we are Given.

The moment had finally come. 

My mother’s long journey with Alzheimer’s had taken a turn for the worse. Hospice was called in, and they prepared my mother for her journey home. They prepared us too for what was to come. In tears, I asked, “How long, how long does she have?” The caregiver from hospice softly replied, “At this point, we no longer measure time in weeks, days, or even hours, we measure time in breaths.”

I knew that my mother’s time on this planet had come to an end, and finally, she could rest in peace.

As I went to sleep that night, holding my mother close to my heart, I reflected on the words of the caregiver: “We measure time in breaths.” 

If we honestly looked at our lives, we would see that our lives are often measured by the significant events that fill our time on this earth. There’s our birth, first steps, our first day of school, graduation, securing our dream job, marriage, the birth of our own children, and then their first steps. 

Our chronological timeline is made up of one headliner followed by another until our last breath.

What about all those in-between moments? What about the forgotten moments? Aren’t they equally important? They are filled with life, just like the other big moments. Our in-between moments are the stepping stones that guide us to our headliners and give us the encouragement and respite to move forward. 

If we measured our lives by each breath or each step we took, we would become steeped in what we call conscious living—living in the moment. When we become aware, we are called to slow way down and experience the epicness of now.

Do we need to wait for death to knock at our door or the door of a loved one before we can start measuring our time in breaths? Do we need a pandemic to slow us to a snail pace before we fully understand and accept the fragility and finiteness of life?

It is time to appreciate our time—it is of the essence. 

We know this but quickly forget. We try to bend or buy time, and in doing so, we waste time. So much of our time is unwisely invested in a state frenzy, or in doing a lot of nothingness. We become stuck in worry and fear, holding on to the past and planning the unknown future. 

Time is wasted trying to get ahead of what and of who? We don’t know because we haven’t stopped and taken the time to ask ourselves these questions. Instead, we fast-forward to the next big goal oriented headliner while holding our breath.

The great sages believed that the number of our breaths numbers our days. This equates to slow conscious breathing that allows us to optimize our vital energy, called prana. When we slow our breath down, our mental activity slows down as well as creating space between our thoughts (especially the ones that are continually looping). 

This space gives way to awareness, and awareness gives way to the present; to live in the now. 

Being in the now, we hear our breath, witness the rise and fall of our belly, experience the simple art of breathing as an all-encompassing moment connecting us to what is present and what is essential.

In this time of great uncertainly where time has miraculously been gifted once again, we can choose to use it wisely. For some, having extra time can create anxiety and an uncomfortable feeling of void or emptiness. There can even be a sense of overwhelming for those who were once running after time. 

These feelings may give way to the urgent desire to clutter the space and fill our time with random activities and reactive thoughts.

Let us be kind to ourselves. This is a new reality that is out of our comfort zone. Notice with kindness, without judgment, or any need to fill our time. 

Ask with gentleness and compassion, “What are we naturally or habitually inclined to use to occupy our time and fill our space?” Whether it’s TV, food, alcohol, social media, reading, sleeping, working out, or judgmental thoughts, invite a full expression without criticism. Offer them full attention and greet them with openness and curiosity. This instrumental insight can be our path to awareness and conscious transformation. 

After seeing the truth, we then have the choice to shift, even just small incremental steps toward freedom. Can we bear witness to the sensation of endless time, even if for just a few breaths before the urge to fill it?

Let’s try.

Take a seat. Get comfortable. Close both eyes, allowing the upper lids to rest on the lower lids gently. Soften the jaw. Allow the legs and the hips to relax toward the earth, creating a sense of stability and presence. Draw awareness to the base of the spine. From this point, follow with the mind’s eye along the length of the spine. Notice the space that is already present, space between each vertebra.

Now, witness the space between the hips and the base ribs, directly between each rib. Feel what that feels like. Feel the space between the shoulders, between the collar bones, and from the shoulders to the ears. 

Notice the space between the temples, the space between the lips. Feel that space. Now, experience the spaciousness from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Space. Space. Space. Become bathed in this space.

Now, draw awareness to the space between the upper lip and nostrils. Feel the natural breath as it moves in and out, effortlessly, cool breath moving in, warm breath moving out. 

The space between our inhale and our exhale—notice spaciousness. Continue to witness the natural flow of breath as it caresses the inside of the nostrils. Feel the breath. Feel the space.

When ready, let’s move our awareness to the space between our thoughts. Thoughts come, and thoughts go, and there is space between each. Maybe a nanosecond, but there is space. 

Nothing to force, nothing to do, just continue to breathe and witness. Breath extends the space between each breath too. 

Time slowly unfolds. Practice regularly, capturing each breath, capturing each moment so that time will be on our side.

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