No, not like that. That isn’t breathing.
That’s just the autonomous nervous system ticking over in low gear while you’re stuck in the traffic jam of life.
Breathe in for a count of 3. Hold for a count of 4. Release for a count of 5. Rinse and repeat.
That’s more like it… filling up your lungs and fully exhaling. Most importantly, place your awareness on your breath. You can feel the life-giving air flowing in and out of your body. You’re no longer breathing autonomously.
You are using the #1 tool in the New Earth toolbox.
Why is breathing so important?
Because it’s the breath of life. “The Lord God took a handful of soil and made a man. God breathed life into the man, and the man started breathing.” (Genesis 2:7-8)
We spend most of our lives breathing unconsciously, taking the breath of life for granted. Yet the Bible reminds us on a few occasions of its importance.
One of my favourite stories—one of the passages that drew me to Christ as it resonated so much with my unravelling life—is Ezekiel’s story of the dry bones coming to life. “I, the Lord God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live.” (Ezekiel 37:5)
We can bring ourselves back to life through conscious breathing.
Conscious breathing achieves three things. It…
- Gets you out of the intellect, where anxiety loops endlessly
- Lets you communicate with your unconscious
- Connects you to the Holy Spirit
Let’s look at these three in turn.
Are you out of your mind yet?
Here’s a little experiment. Immerse yourself in something extremely mental, something that requires all your intelligence to make sense out of. Then try to place your awareness on your breath. Can you keep your mind fully engaged and at the same time follow your breath as it softly glides in and out of your body?
No. It’s really hard. It’s almost as if thinking and breathing are mutually exclusive. That’s why we need autonomous breathing. Without it, we’d be so stuck in our heads we’d forget to breathe.
Conscious breathing is a great tool precisely because it takes you out of your mind. If you have developed your emotional intelligence skills, you will know this is a desirable place to be—particularly if you suffer from stress, anxiety or panic attacks.
Whenever we feel under stress it’s because our unconscious experiences a fear of some kind of shortage. It might be a shortage of money, food, water, security, love or even the end of the breath of life itself.
Our mind screams, “Do something about this NOW!” We experience this silent scream as stress, anxiety, and panic that bounces around our head like juggling chainsaws.
By focusing on your breath you shift your awareness away from the panicky voice and onto that silent, silky feeling of the breath flowing in and out.
By focusing on your breath you shift your awareness away from the panicky voice and onto that silent, silky feeling of the breath flowing in and out. Like everything, developing conscious breathing takes practice. Don’t give up.
Breathe to communicate
We all have psychological traits—let’s be generous—that could use some improvement. Yet they seem to have a life of their own. They live inside us yet are completely unmanageable, surfacing at inappropriate times—whether that’s some kind of damaging habit like binge drinking or whether it’s deep anxiety.
These parts of ourselves live in our unconscious. They are completely non-verbal. They are too traumatised to have acquired communication skills.
If only we could communicate with that part of ourselves!
We can—and conscious breathing is the first step. It slows down the nervous system, calms the frazzled mind and allows us to begin a faint, fragile dialogue with our wounded unconscious. I’ll talk more about that in future New Earth tools.
In the meantime, relax and breathe. Keep your focus on it.
Breathe in the Holy Spirit
When you place your awareness on your breath, your breathing ceases to be unconscious and becomes conscious. With that simple act you cross a magical threshold. You leave the realm of the individual and enter that of the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 20 of John relates how Jesus breathed on his disciples after the resurrection: “After Jesus had greeted them again, he said, ‘I am sending you, just as the Father has sent me.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22)
Conscious breathing connects you to the Holy Spirit and to the whole of God’s creation.
The cosmos is abundant. Always. The universe always has enough of whatever it is your unconscious is stressed about. Feel it. As you consciously breathe, relax and feel your connection to all that is.
God knows you’re there. Conscious breathing brings you all the air you ever need.
That’s it. You’re an integral part of God’s creation. Relax.
Photo by Giu Vicente on Unsplash