If you’re like me life can get a little crazy. What if I told you that the best way out is by breathing?
Most holidays are an excuse to relax, get away from work and just take a breath. In addition to the wonderful history of Independence Day, it is also the official start of summer and, yes, an opportunity to relax. If you’ve been left out of a party (and even if you haven’t), consider just breathing.
Breathing is underrated.
I know that sounds silly. After all we don’t really have a choice, do we? We breathe or we die. The truth is we take breath for granted.
We are a few short breaths away from extinction.
The average person takes over 23,000 breaths each day! But those breaths can come fast and furious, accompanied by heart palpitations and sweating. All too often we hold our breath, waiting for something to happen or fearing the worst.
It turns out that the respiratory system is there for a reason. When we breathe we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Out with the bad, in with the good. It’s that simple. But the benefits are great! Your metabolism decreases, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure decreases, your body ends a message to your brain to relax.
Dr. Herbert Benson named this the “relaxation response” but it has been practiced for centuries. Who would have thought that something as simple and fundamental as breathing could un-crazy your life? Thank you, God! I am fearfully and wonderfully made!
So try this…
- When an unexpected bill comes in the mail, breathe
- When the kids have pushed you to your limits, breathe
- When the boss fails to appreciate the wonderful work you’ve done, breathe
- When the pie is in the oven and you realize you forgot the sugar, breathe
- When your best friend becomes your worst enemy, breathe
- When you see the ticket on your windshield, breathe
A good friend of mine teaches mindfulness meditation in New York City. We have spirited conversations about his Buddhism and my Christianity. But one thing we agree on is that breathing, locking into the natural rhythms of the body, can take us away from the edge of life.
When life gets crazy our first response is anger or panic or fear. Those only make you crazier! Breathing allows your body time to react appropriately and buys you time to think about a more appropriate response.
Crazy lives, cluttered minds. The two go together. Mindfulness means that you occasionally empty the clutter and appreciate that natural reflex that keeps you alive.
And it works both ways too. When things are going well and life is good, breathe in and appreciate the moment, and give thanks.Take it a step further. Make a list of the people that have made your life better.
By their kindness
By a piece of advice
By accepting you for you
Now tell them how much they have meant to you. We waste so much breath stressing over life, why not spend a little encouraging someone else.
Thankfulness ignores the crazy and says…
There are things in my life that are valuable and get overlooked
There are people that matter to me and don’t know it
There’s someone more important than me
There is life outside of the crazy
Be thankful for it.
Remember that how and when you breathe is a choice. Include breathing into the events of your day. Breathe “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6.7) Intentional breathing is training the body the way you train the mind, through repetition and habit.
It’s not that you’re forgetting to breathe but that you’re not aware of it. When you are you realize how important it is to your health, to your very life and happiness.
A crazy life thrives on snap decisions made in the heat of a moment, without thought. A deep breath is like a buffer that protects you from a knee-jerk reaction and reminds you that you live and move and have your being in God. The un-crazy life aims at happiness over business, being over doing and quality over quantity. Each new breath is a new start.
So just breathe.