Breathing Space

People talk about breathing space all the time. They need a little space to make a decision. They need a little space when something traumatic happens.

This breathing space is needful in life. It gives solitude and quiet for the body, mind, and heart to work.

Birds space themselves out at the appropriate and needful interval on a telephone wire. Sometimes however we humans forget and we keep crowding in and crowding in when simply there is not enough space.

Breathing space is needed physically within ourselves also. Without it our lungs do not expand properly. We need free and easy breathing. And sometimes the hardest thing to do when in pain is to take deep, smooth breaths. It is a very “in the present moment” thing to do. To mindful breathe in. Feel your chest expand. Feel the breath go deep and push out the stomach muscles. Feel the breath all the way down to the navel.

The act of mindfully breathing in, especially during a time of pain, is very helpful. I encourage my patients to do so. It gives the space, that moment of clarity and calm. With slow, deep, full breaths one can grow that moment of calm.

The easiest meditation was taught to me as a prayer by a beloved Jesuit priest from my childhood, Father Frank Ernst. He had us children sit as quietly as possible and take a deep breath in and on the exhale gently and without force let the word Jesus come forth. This is very similar to the Om chant. It is an easy sound. And because of its roundedness, requires a fullness that produces openness in the chest. A breath prayer or chanting is provides the focus for the breath. We do not need to add sound. It is the act of focusing on the breath that is important.

Breath focus is used in meditation. Forget about gazing a lotus leaf or the vivid hues of the sunrise. Air is always within us and around us. To concentrate as we take a long, slow, deep breath that pushes down to the naval and to follow it mindfully out so that all the air is exhaled out is the best meditative practice I can do. I encourage you to do it. It requires no special equipment or place.

Close your eyes or let them rest downcast and not focused on anything. Take a breath in through your nose. Pull it down as far as you can. Early on you may only feel your upper chest expand. Exhale slowly. Feel your chest deflate. Take your next breath and mindfully expand your stomach to accommodate the space in your body instead of your chest. As you exhale your stomach muscles press inward and upward. The breath feels bigger. Continue.

Many people start their day with a few moments of mindful breathing. It is energizing and easy. Many also conclude their day the same way. It is a good practice to use and spreads throughout our lives so that instead of using it moments of panic, we use it in life and life is easier with mindful breathing.