Sometimes I resist taking a moment in my busy life to breathe and gather myself. Especially on high stress days I just want to keep going, crossing one more item off of my to-do list and take care of one more loose end. My mind drives me like a slave master, telling me there isn’t enough time, and to just keep going.
The demands of being a university professor put me in my head a lot, creating a disconnection from feeling myself in my body. I feel institutional and societal pressure to emphasize logic and reasoning over emotion and intuition.
In The Breathing Book, Donna Farhi explains that only in modern times has breathing been “reduced to a mere respiratory exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.” Historically, breathing was perceived as “a force that ran through mind, body, and spirit like a river running through a dry valley giving sustenance to everything in its course.”
Cultivating this more conscious awareness of breathing that Farhi describes is my most powerful resource for managing the demands of my busy life with its stresses, lack of time and shifting priorities.
Empowerment is as simple—and essential—as breathing
What is it about our busy lives that keeps us from consciously breathing? For me, it’s easier sometimes to just keep pushing ahead; to pause and take time to breathe can seem like a waste of time to my “get it done” mind.
Ironically, it’s the simplicity of breathing that makes it seem an unworthy solution not deserving of diverting my focus and energy from the more important task or goal at hand. I resist because it’s too simple and takes too little effort.
Have you felt this way before? Do you struggle with getting to the self-nurturing items on your to-do list?
When life gets overwhelming we tend to interrupt or stop taking complete breaths, or we breath shallow and high in the chest or hold our breath. And when it seems like we’re lagging behind, we use our anxiety as motivational fuel to do better, achieve more, and push even harder. This cycle of self-discipline, self-punishment and self-repression can feel like we’re accomplishing something but is actually counterproductive to real empowerment because it cuts us off from feeling deeply connected to ourselves.
Breathing Out ~ Breathing In
Science confirms that breathing effects the mind and its ability to be clear-headed and decisive. The quality, consistency, and rhythm of breath greatly influences awareness and perception. To be clear-headed and able to make wise decisions with keen perception —long, smooth, consistently complete, rhythmic breathing is best.
Breathing facilitates tuning in to your state of being because it provides a vehicle for the mind to focus on as it gathers information from your emotions, physical condition, energy, and input from your senses. This simple step of bringing awareness to your breath helps you tune in to what your truth is.
Consciously breathing makes it easier to be present and grounded
Deep conscious breath makes you aware of your body, activates your energy, clears and releases negative energy, reduces anxiety and gives you an increased sense of inner connectedness and personal power. As you breathe, energy is sent to the places in your body that need it the most and as your focus increases you become more aware and attuned to your inner condition and your relationship with external surroundings and situation.
Why is bringing awareness to the breath fundamental to empowerment?
Some women can seek empowerment from external sources such as their partner, a family member or friend. A key principle of authentic self-empowerment is that it originates from within you and not from outside of you.
When we breathe consciously, we are tuning awareness inwards and getting a sense of our truth in this moment—and this is where true empowerment comes from. When we have access to our truth we can access the power within us—present, alert and aware, with wisdom informed by confidence in our state of being.
Breath of Life
To adapt the words of the poet Rumi ~ speaking of dance:
Breathe when you heart is broken.
Breathe when you are falling apart.
Breathe as you gather your pieces.
Breathe to unshackle your heart.
Breathe in the middle of madness.
Breathe in the middle of joy.
Breathe to reach new horizons.
Breathe to let your heart soar.
Practice breathing deeply, smoothly to completion, in a consistent rhythm for several minutes. Don’t rush or force your breath, what’s important is to be consistent and complete with each breath. Notice the times you catch yourself stopping part way, and begin again. Add to your breath your awareness of what you are sensing and feeling inside you and how your breath enlivens and animates your body, energy, and mind. Gather “your truth” —your state of being in its myriad forms and let it empower you to be the best version of yourself and to feel confident and fulfilled with whatever that becomes.