It is such an amazing secret. We actually breathe all the time. I think it may well be one of the best kept secrets of our time. I know that we know that we breathe. The question is, are we aware of it? It seems such a simple thing – to be aware of our breath. But then again, are we aware of most of the things we do? How often are we looking for our keys, trying to remember what we were doing or talking about, or wondering where we just put that paper we had in our hands a minute ago?
If we take some time to reflect, we may find that we are often unaware of much of what we are doing throughout the day. Many of our daily activities, and even interactions, are frequently done on autopilot. Our body performs actions while our mind is somewhere else. When was the last time you ate a meal without talking? Being aware of the texture and taste of each bite. When was the last time you talked on the phone without multitasking? Let’s not even get into what happens when we drive!
The beauty of becoming aware of our breath is that it brings us back to the present moment. The moment that actually exists and is never coming again. This moment, this day, is precious for we will never experience it again. It is meaningful to consciously participate in the moments of our lives. In doing so, we get to fully engage, make healthy choices, and learn from our mistakes. Though we may find it difficult in our multitasking world, it is possible. One of the best methods to develop our attention is the practice of mindfulness of breath. It is quite precious to become aware of the very breath that gives us life. When I do this, my worries, anxiety, stress, frustration, or just plain distractions slip away. I become aware of the rare gift of the life I get to participate in and I can then bring my full attention into the moment, with clear motivation and intention.
It really is not that difficult to become aware of our breath. It does not take a huge amount of time, spending hours meditating every day. It does require some consistency. Many years ago I learned a simple practice to concentrate one the breath. I would spend 10 minutes a day, every day meditating on my breath. Then throughout the day, I would try to become aware of my breath as often as possible (putting as smile on my face at the same time). There is a physiological change that takes place whenever we smile. To breathe and smile can transform your experience in just a few breaths. Eventually I increased my morning meditation to 15 minutes. Over time it eventually increased and I could comfortably sit for 25 minutes concentrating on my breath. As my practice improved, I more easily became aware of my breath throughout the day and became more attentive to, and engaged with, the moments and activities of my life.
The benefit of this practice was noticeable to all those around me. My patience increased, I was gentler, more focused, and better able to attend to the people in my life. Most important for me, this simple practice helped me become more aware of my own thoughts, feelings, motivations, and biases. I could actually think before saying something I would regret. I could become aware of difficult situations as they were arising and, rather than react unconsciously, respond more skillfully. This allowed me to connect more authentically with myself and others and and be able to make healthier choices that made my life more meaningful.
May all of you enjoy the precious moments of your lives.