Breathing. It seems so simple. Of course you’re breathing, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t.
I’m talking about mindful breathing, though.
Some people call it meditation, but ‘meditation’ can be intimidating… it felt too hard for me at first. The thought of sitting still with my racing thoughts was terrifying, impossible even.
So instead, I started practicing mindful breathing. And yeah, I can hear SNL’s Sean Connery on Celebrity Jeopardy saying “Call it what you want, Trebek!”
I’m doing it right now. Breathing.
Taking a slow, deep inhale…
Focusing on where the breath enters my nose,
Feeling the coolness touch the back of my throat.
Feeling the rise of my belly > lungs > chest,
As they fill with this life force we call air.
And like the top of a wave, rolling into a slow exhale out through my nose…
Feeling my shoulders fall away from my ears,
Chest > lungs > belly gently contracting.
And just for a moment,
There’s space in my brain.
In between the inhale and exhale…
There’s space and nothing else.
And holy sh*t, I did it! I’ve discovered the ultimate high, an escape from chaos. And it’s free. And healthy. And necessary.
I hover at the end of my exhale too long and the racing thoughts swoop in, crowding the immaculate space I just created for myself: to do lists, guilt for not doing the dishes last night, fear of everything that has to be done this week, shame for not having the energy to do it, and anxiety for having to move through it anyways…
I haven’t inhaled in 30 seconds, and if I did, it was dim and hasty, my chest feels tight.
Back to the breath.
It doesn’t feel as deep this time, but I try anyways, and a gentle, knowing sigh releases with my exhale. She understands… breathing is hard.
I relax a bit, knowing I can always come back to the breath.
Even if I forget… It’ll be here, waiting for me to come back again.
Breathing saved my life.
I move through the world with high-functioning anxiety. There was a breaking point where the bullying twin in my brain was beating me so hard that I lost myself for a while. I was being trampled by the race in my head and didn’t have time to take a stupid, freaking breath!
And then I started taking a few stupid, freaking breaths. Wow, breathing feels nice.
Now, I make it a priority to come back and make space for myself. Everything changed.
Actually, everything is still changing, because it’s an ongoing practice to be here in this moment, to breathe in space right now.
Try it, align your inhale and exhale with this gif:
Also, I use Calm to remind me how to breathe <3
Alyssa helped to launch LiveYourDream.org back in 2012 and has combined creativity and all-things-digital to develop a fun, meaningful, connected space for you to get inspired and take action. Her passion for women’s empowerment drives her day-to-day work, but also her own volunteer experience – from art-service exchanges abroad in Tanzania to helping families in domestic violence shelters in the states. For fun, she loves live music, yoga, dancing, traveling and pretending to be a food critic at new restaurants!