The second chapter of Making Space by Thich Nhat Hanh is all about one of the most incredible powers we possess: the power to breathe.
Human breath is so complex in terms of all that it does within our bodies, yet letting air in and out of the lungs is a task so simple; so natural. Breathing mindfully is a beautiful way to form a body-mind connection. We’re already breathing at any given moment – all it takes to turn one breath into a meditation tool is the simple acknowledgement of it.
Conscious breathing is a treat to both the body and mind. It’s unbelievably refreshing and rejuvenating. Even just a few mindful breaths in and out can have a wonderful impact on our lives – and the more we do it, the more natural and habitual it becomes.
In the beginning, breathing mindfully isn’t easy… well, remembering to breathe mindfully isn’t easy. That’s why it can be helpful to set certain reminders for yourself. I personally have two pleasant-sounding alarms on my phone set at random times each day, both with the label “Breathe.” I’ll admit, when those alarms go off, I often find myself in the midst of doing something and I just don’t feel like stopping to pay attention to my breathing… but I recognize that these are the times when it’s most important to do so.
Another idea is to hang a wind chime right outside your window. Whenever you hear those beautiful tones, come back to your breathing. Shush any thoughts running wild within your head, and smile as you fill your lungs up with fresh air and let it back out again.
Really anything can be used as a reminder to breathe: a note on the wall… a specific piece of jewelry… do whatever works best for you.
I love this gatha that Nhat Hanh recommends as a way to practice breathing mindfully:
“If we don’t have peace and joy right now,” he asks, “how can we have peace and joy tomorrow, or after tomorrow?”
I believe the answer to that is one we already know.
+ How do you remind yourself to breathe?