At the beginning of this month, I invited you guys to do an exercise with me: to take some time each day and deeply inhale at least 10 times, the way that the lovely Karolyn invited us to do. How have you done?
I fully intended to start each day with this breathing exercise, but my memory isn't what it used to be, and the truth is that more days than not, I just began my morning as I always have. But I'm pleased to say that this notwithstanding, almost every day in the past month I would remember that I'd promised myself I would commit to this practice, and every day, I stopped what I was doing, and took 10 deep breaths.
Sometimes I would think about what I wanted for myself on the inhalation ... I breathe in calm...
and then would think about what I wanted to rid myself of on the exhalation ... I breathe out worry...
On the next breath, I'd come up with something else ... I breathe in health ... I breathe out tiredness ...
Sometimes I would just breathe.
At the end of a month of doing this, I'm surprised at some of the things I learned: I discovered that without exception, I felt calmer and clearer and lighter at the end of the breathing exercise than I did at the beginning, regardless of how great I might have felt at the beginning. I learned that if I was feeling angry or sad or poorly, even if at the end of the exercises these feelings remained, they had somewhat dissipated. And I was stunned to realize that more often then not, when I got to the end of the 10 breaths, I wasn't eager to go back to what I was doing -- I wanted, instead to keep on breathing.
But there's something else.
Late last year, as I do every year, I chose a word for myself for the coming twelve months; that word is INSPIRE. When I looked up the definition of INSPIRE, I found what you might expect:
to fill with an animating, quickening or exalting influence; to give rise to, bring about, cause; to influence or impel
However, I also found an additional entry:
to take into the lungs in breathing; inhale
So perhaps the most stunning thing I learned this month, while I did my breathing exercises, was that by controlling my breath, by calming my mind, by focusing on what I hoped for myself, I actually put myself in a state that made it easier for inspiration to find me. It allowed me to focus. To become more open-minded. To ready myself for whatever was to come next.
It's no wonder that inspiration is so closely tied to the breath. And on that note, I think I'm definitely going to keep going with my exercises.
I hope you enjoyed your own breathing practice as well -- and if you're open to it, I'd love if you'd share what you may have learned or observed in the comments section, below.
Still, in any event: go inspire yourself.