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09 September 2009

Interruptions of the Mind

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Remember that commercial - 'Calgon, Take Me Away' - with the busy woman who just needed to get away from it all so she took a soapy, perfumy, chemical-filled bubble bath? Give me a break, when was the last time I've had time to take a bath and I wouldn't touch our bathtub with a ten-foot pole because I haven't gotten my request to have a maid yet. But no matter... We've all been there, in total shock, in pain, in disbelief, in awe, in excitement, in sadness, in anger, in stress, where we forgot to breath and someone said, 'Just breath', and you did. Such a simple idea but so hard to do in those moments of chaos. Yet that gentle reminder helps you slip back into reality but this time with a renewed focus and a sense of calm.

It is true, breathing is the means we use to merge our body and soul. I found that out when I was taking hot yoga a couple of years ago. My first class was quite an awakening. The room was heated to 105 degrees and we were holding poses for long moments of time. The combination of the heat, sweat pouring out of me like niagra falls, concentrating on holding a position meant for a cat would make me forget to breathe. It must have been a common occurrence because our teacher constantly reminded us to breathe. She told us that we needed to focus only on our breathing which would take us away from the heat and the pain. She said after practicing, we would eventually find our breath. I had no idea what that meant so I just kept trying. But I soon found out. Probably 3 classes in, I wasn't even concentrating on remembering to breathe. I realized that I was naturally breathing and extremely centered. What amazed me was how quiet my mind had become. I wasn't worrying about the extreme heat or fighting with the continual nuances and interruptions that flow in and out of my head. As long as I breathed, I remained tranquil.

I've held onto this philosophy and made it a way of life for myself. When I get stressed out, I take 3 deep, long, slow breaths. Those breaths renew my sense of calm and help me prepare to deal with the present in a buddah-minded way. I can breathe subtly if there is no way for me to escape my situation or I can go hide in a bathroom stall and breathe deeply there (and roll my eyes and make faces at the wall).

Breathing will get me through those moments but there are other pieces to this puzzle of obtaining a calm mind. Breathe first, the forgive and let it go. Forgive yourself, forgive the other person and say it over and over and over until you believe it. This could take a while. Then let it go. It's seriously easy to let it go once you forgive. And don't reheat it for breakfast, ever. The final step is to absorb yourself in a strenuous activity - hot yoga, an extra long walk or jog, hike or ride your bike up a big hill, sex, etc... My philosophy is that if you get your heart rate up and get your breathing going for a period of time, you actually release (and sweat out) any lingering issues that are stubbornly staying in your mind.I don't know but it works for me. And I think you should give it a try - more than once. And if it doesn't work, and you are going to resort to a bubble bath, at least get the kind without perfume and chemicals!

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