Have you ever had a moment where you felt like everything was going wrong, like the world was caving in on you, or like your day, week or year is not going as planned at all? Or a time when you felt powerless in a difficult situation? How about a moment when you were so angry with someone you lashed out with aggressive words or behavior to regain control and get what you wanted? What about a moment when you were so embarrassed because the person you had a crush on noticed you had something in your teeth or that toilet paper was stuck to your shoe, or you tripped and fell in front of a whole group of your friends at the movies in a skirt and your legs went flailing up in the air (true confession, this happened to me once), and the embarrassment stuck with you all through the movie or even through the day, and you thought you would never get over it? Have you ever made a mistake or done something you regretted so badly that you wanted to change schools, move to another town, change your hair and take on a whole different personality? Have you ever felt alone like the world was all gray and you would never feel happiness again?
You are not alone.
Life is full of these kinds of moments for EVERYONE. It sucks, but it’s true. Pain, disappointment, confusion are experiences we all have. However, this life can be enriched and good, because of, and not just despite, the difficult moments. To live through these moments, to grow stronger and even change for the better out of our struggles we must first learn to press pause. Embarrassment, anger, self loathing, and deep sadness are powerful emotions that can feel like they “take over” at times, and we can react to them in ways that only bring about more of the same. Or we can notice the emotion, press “pause,” and take a breath…or three or twenty. I know I know, this is common thread, and “Just Breathe” may sound trivial, or shallow. However, it’s my aim to convince you to give this a chance, try it, and see if it doesn’t feel really really good to take a beat, a time out, and just breathe. Take a moment to be more aware.
You see, it’s in the pressing of pause inside ourselves, and becoming more mindful that we can begin to see clearly. We can touch base with who we really are inside, realign ourselves with who we want to be despite our current state of sadness, despair, anger or shame. It’s in pausing things become clear, and we can see the temporary nature of our emotions and wait out the current storm for its inevitable end. We come to see that deep deep deep down in a hidden part of ourselves there is still light, hope, and strength to go on. And yes, it is in the “just breathe” mantra we can begin to see this inner space of strength, and light.
It sounds easy enough, but it’s actually quite a challenge. You see we are all living busy lives reacting to our emotions, experiences and thoughts without reflection or contemplation. We rush and entertain ourselves filling nearly every moment with distraction which can cloud our inner compass. It’s much harder to act authentically and to know who we are when we are living outside of ourselves in the past or future, or filling our moments with other people’s stories (i.e T.V., Social media etc.). This is why we need moments of turning off the distraction, letting go of everything for a moment to just be. Here the swirl of emotions, activity, and noise can fall back, and our own sense of center can be felt. Breath is the starting point to pausing, reflecting and turning on the light of inner clarity.
We can’t breathe for yesterday, nor can we breathe for tomorrow. We can only breathe for the now. Our breath brings us back to right here. We notice our body, and our mind without judgement as we breathe. This is our pause. Our anger, shame and yes sometimes even extreme joy can bring us out of the now. So to come back to the now is to come back to the breath. As we practice we can begin to use this in times where we are feeling things most intensely.
For example, say my boyfriend doesn’t text me back right away. Thirty minutes go by, an hour goes by and I start to feel my heart quicken its beat, my thoughts become harried wondering “what he is doing, who he is with…Is it raining? Was he driving? He was practicing with his band, and there is a cute girl in the band and man they sure seem to have chemistry… is he hanging out with her? Maybe I should just go over there.” This is the power of our emotions, and this is the power of a mind in reaction mode. Pressing pause allows us to take a moment, see our fear and breathe. We can ask ourselves what kind of partner we want to be, and respond to the moment in a way that allows us to feel in line with who we are, and that really most likely everything is okay…trust. One of my favorite quotes says, “Love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” Rather than reacting to fear and calling our partner 50 times, and becoming someone that the person we love feels constricted by, or controlled by, we can begin to see beyond our current emotion and reflect and respond in a way that brings more love, more joy, more freedom into the situation rather than their opposites.
Also it’s never too late. Maybe you are in a situation where you have already reacted in a way that blew up to a level you didn’t want it to go to. Still, in that moment, exists your breath. Your ability to pause, reflect, and…you got it, rewind. You may not be able to actually go back and undo a situation but you can go back, in reflection, to the moment where you lost it, and choose to bring the light in. Pause, reflect and breathe. Ask yourself what would I do if I could rewind, and learn from that. We all make mistakes we all react rather than reflect sometimes. Truly truly it is never too late to take a beat and pause. Apology is an art form we can practice as we reflect. It takes courage to admit a mistake and apologize to the one you hurt, and then it takes even more courage to let it go. We must face our mistakes, and then we must learn to move on from them.
Our breath rooted in the present moment is how we let go, and move forward from things we would like to undo. Because life is moving on and the present moment moves us further from that person we were that we don’t want to be. That person is within us, the person who will react, the person that could make other people walk around on eggshells trying to please us. We all have our days where we are little more that person, but when we pause, reflect, and sometimes rewind, we give ourselves the opportunity to feed the one we want to be. The person that allows others to feel freedom and love when they’re around us. Giving our inner wisdom a little more space, and the darkness more light. Essentially, when we pause we are turning on the light in the darkest places of our soul.
I had a cool thought…being the Harry Potter nerd that I am. This is how we, as muggles, turn on the light in our darkest times and hours. When our world seems to be crumbling, or when we are enraged at the possibility of losing love or control in a situation, when we are confused, or numb, we do still have the ability to turn on the light, but it takes practice and searching to find the right switch. It’s there, and pausing, breathing and reflecting gives us the opportunity to give freedom, inner strength, trust, and spaciousness a shot. In the quiet moments of our own heart we reach inward. That is how we find the light, and in the light of our own soul, happiness can be found.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Professor Albus Dumbledore
May we all shine brightly and bring our best selves forward.
To practice pressing pause: Mindfulness
Read the directions in their entirety before beginning practice.
Have some sort of timer near by.
Sit in comfortable position at the edge of a chair or on the floor. Sit in a way that is dignified but relaxed.
Softly gaze down at the floor, or if you are comfortable close the eyes.
Notice how your body feels as it holds your current waves of emotion.
If it is anger how does your body feel when you are angry? If you are embarrassed or sad, what does that feel like physically? Don’t judge the sensations or try and push them away, but take a breath and sit with them for a moment. Take a few deep breaths.
Feel your sit bones on the support beneath you, as you breathe soften your shoulders, belly, and muscles of your legs and face.
Take 3 more deep breaths.
Feel the sensation of breath for a certain amount of time – set your timer for 3-5 minutes
In this time breath naturally and feel the sensations of breath in the nose, or belly.
If the mind wonders -don’t worry, and don’t judge. Just notice that it has and come back to your breathing.
When the timer ends, come back to the feeling of your body in your seat.
Tuck the chin.
Feel the space where you notice your inner self to reside, the non-judgmental kind observer – rest your attention there for 3 breaths.
Set the intention to respond to yourself and others from this deep space within with inner strength, compassion, and wisdom.
Emotions come and go, and we all have a steady source of strength to come back to.
Its not about not feeling, its not about not thinking, but about being aware of our thoughts and feelings so that they don’t control and overwhelm us, and so that we don’t end up living a life that makes us unhappy.