Inhale… Exhale… Inhale… Exhale…
We breathe without thinking of it. It’s an automated part of our bodies. But when was the last time you thought about those inhales and exhales? I mean really thought about them? The practice of mindful breathing dates back to the dawn of humanity as a form of meditation, spiritual mindedness, or just a way to slow down and calm oneself. It’s a practice that many of us have, well, fallen out of practice on.
Let me tell you a story about how taking a few deep breaths helped me through a particularly hard day.
My step-dad and my husband worked in office buildings just blocks from each other. My step-dad drove my husband to work every day, and picked him up to come home. One morning, my step-dad didn’t show up on time. After an hour of waiting my husband called my mom to ask if my step-dad was okay or if he forgot to call my husband to tell him he wasn’t coming that morning. Mom told my husband that my step-dad had already left. This is when we knew there was trouble because it was only a 5 minute drive from my Mom’s to our house. After jumping in the car and driving toward my house, my mom came upon an accident at the side of the road, where a light pole was bent over the top of my step-dad’s car and a tow truck was pulling up to haul it away.
As my husband and I drove to the emergency room, I distinctly remember feeling a tightness in my chest. I didn’t realize that my breathing had become shallow and quick. When we got to the emergency room we were greeted by the hospital chaplain. He held my hand and told me my step-dad had passed away. I can’t remember anything else he said except one thing: “Deep breaths, honey. Keep taking deep breaths,” he said. And as I struggled through my tears and hiccuping sobs I managed to pull a couple deep breaths out. The physical relief was almost instant. I was still crying, I was still grieving, but my chest wasn’t so tight and I was able to speak coherently. Throughout the rest of that bitter day, and days that followed, I’d catch myself breathing quickly, shallowly, feeling tightness in my chest, and remind myself of the kind chaplain’s words, “deep breaths, honey. Keep taking deep breaths,” and I was able to calm myself physically and mentally.
I don’t ever remember a time when I was so aware of every breath I took. But because of that sage advice to just breathe, I’ve been able to calm myself in uncomfortable situations.
The practice of taking deep, cleansing breaths has even worked for the littlest members of my family, which is where this Little Glimmer comes from.
Little Glimmer: hold a finger up and pretend it’s a birthday candle. Take a deep breath in, and blow out the candle. Do as many breaths as you have birthdays! Easy, yeah?
I have my kids blow out the candle frequently to re-center themselves when they’re overcome with emotions (aka: throwing a tantrum…). And most of the time it helps enough for them to explain why they’re upset.
I challenge you to try taking a few moments in your busy, hectic, stressful day and take a few cleansing breaths. Blow out the candle (like my kiddos), or just breathe mindfully. I hope this helps calm and center you to be able to look for the silver lining in your day.
Leave me a comment below with your thoughts! Has deep breathing helped you? Does “blowing out the candle” calm your little ones? Let me know!