Here’s something to think about: What one thing can you live without for only minutes?
We can go without food for between three to four weeks, without water for three to five days, but without air, only about three minutes—unless you’ve been especially trained, which may give you an extra two minutes of life without oxygen.
So it stands to reason that our breath is a key to our health and wellbeing—physically, mentally and spiritually. It influences our nervous system and consciousness.
When you wake up, there is a natural, involuntary shift in your breathing pattern that signals the brain that you are awake. When you’re falling asleep, your consciousness and breathing shift in tandem.
The more you are connected to your breath, the more you become aware of your breathing patterns and responses, the healthier you’re likely to be in body, mind and spirit. To facilitate this awareness, I’ve created something that I call BYB: Being with Your Breath.
BYB was inspired by my Spiritual Psychology Masters Program studies, and more deeply by the death of my mother four years ago of lung cancer. During her illness, I witnessed her desperation as she tried to grasp for air. In those difficult moments, I would guide her to be calm, allow the breath to come effortlessly and release the fear. “Don’t judge it, don’t fix it, just be with it” were my words for her.
It might seem easy to say, and hard to do, but it is profoundly helpful—on levels beyond what I’d first considered. Now I think of BYB as an approach to self-realization through the connection to and liberation of breath.
So what is BYB? How do you do it? You might be surprised, but this simple method includes just four easy-to-follow steps that you practice systematically. They are:
- Open to Divine Inspiration
Observe. Simply observe your breath As It Is. Notice what is happening in your body. Is your belly loose or tight? Notice how it rises and falls with each inhalation and exhalation.
There is no need to change anything or make it better. Just notice what is.
When you can observe your breath without judgment or interference, you free your body and your perceptive ability.
In the observer mode, your autonomic nervous system shifts from a sympathetic fight or flight state to a parasympathetic state. Your attention moves away from any negative thinking patterns to the physical sensory awareness of your breath. You become more calm.
Silence exists in the pauses between inhalation and exhalation.
Acknowledge. Now that we have noticed our breath, we have a wonderful opportunity to learn from it. What thoughts are there as you breathe? What might be at the root of your breathing pattern? What ideas, emotions, limitations, constrictions or fears might you be holding from the past?
Appreciate. Now that you have observed your breath and acknowledged your thoughts, you have the choice to let go of the thoughts and of the breath pattern you were engaged in, freeing yourself to breathe in an uninhibited way.
This is your chance to take ownership of what you acknowledged—whatever might be restricting you—and appreciate and release it. Acknowledge the Loving Essence of yourself and others. Let your breath break through the prison of judgment and flow freely, without conscious effort. This is full self-expression.
Open to Divine Inspiration. In this last step you are with your breath—in divine connection with Spirit and with all that surrounds you. Each breath you take is a reminder of your connection to the Divine, to your origin, to who you really are.
Being with your breath, you are in the present, aware, fully functioning. All is perfect as it is, and so is your breath.
The more we free our breath, the more we free our perception and are able to acknowledge the higher forces that guide our lives—even the force of our breath. We understand ourselves as part of a much larger consciousness than the “I” of daily life. We breathe in the now and all is well.