One of the best pieces of unwarranted advice I’ve ever gotten was, “Your mind will play tricks on you.” This advice was given to me at age 12 by my dad and, because most 12-year-olds know everything, I immediately disregarded. Thankfully, I got this advice all of my adolescence and adulthood.
My dad also told me “you and most humans don’t even know to breathe properly.” Again, because I knew everything, I did a demonstration taking a “huge” breath and stating “see I can take such a deep breath in you can see all of my ribs!”
If you’re looking for the part where he said, “you’re right!”, spoiler after: It didn’t happen.
Fast forward to regular panic attacks and being told by someone or telling myself, “breathe.” “You have to breathe.” Each time, my brain responded, “I am.”
For the life of me, I couldn’t understand what these people were talking about. I mean, I was a living human so obviously, I am breathing. It didn’t make any sense. I am doing what I am supposed to do to sustain my life, yet my mind was always racing, I was unsure of everything and normally ended my day with panic and fear.
Then came pregnancy and childbirth and this new fancy idea of breathing used as a pain coping mechanism for which I was totally on board. It sounds noble but it really isn’t. I wanted and chose an unmedicated birth out of fear of what could (in my mind that ‘could’ was ‘absolutely most certainly’) happen in medicated births. I was also afraid of a catheter. So, I chose to take the courses, read the books and watch all the videos. I rehearsed, ran scripts and practiced breathing. It worked… in childbirth. It honestly never occurred to me breathing to calm, release, focus and even visualize for anything other than bringing human life into the world was necessary. Bless. Just, bless.
Fast forward again to March of 2018 and I knew changes had to be made. I couldn’t go on like this. I did not know how to calm my mind. I did not know to trust my body. I couldn’t sleep. So, I took baby steps to start this uphill journey. I swallowed all my pride and downloaded free guided meditation apps. Apps that gave me breathing cues, told me where to place my hands, how to count inhales and exhales and well, how to breathe. This may seem odd but I was ashamed I had to do this. I was ashamed that, at this age and time in my life, I didn’t know me. I didn’t trust me. I was ashamed that I didn’t love me. I was ashamed that I needed help to complete one of the most basic human functions.
I make a point to share my emotions so, if by chance, a dear reader also has fear, shame or guilt about where they are on this journey, don’t let it stop you from continuing. I beg of you, please keep going. Here’s why: When I started those guided meditations I felt like an utter fool before and during but after, I felt awakened. Not the “the sun is out and have things to do and I’ve snoozed my alarm 8 times” awake. My sense and understanding of self began to heighten.
Back to your mind playing tricks on you, for so long, my mind told me everything was fine. I wasn’t in physical pain that couldn’t be easily quelled and if things got too hard emotionally I had several effective “zone-out’ tactics. So, I didn’t deal with the hard stuff going on with me until I was awakened. Once awake, I started questioning my mind, trusting my gut and taking the steps to heal myself.
This wasn’t easy. For the first week, those feelings of shame and embarrassment did not relent. I kept going. When the free trial ended, I did it again, and again. My body yearned for those moments. It went from once a day to twice and sometimes 3 if needed. Also, I learned how to breathe – How to use the breath to release things, work through things and be aware. Breathing, in this manner, was the first time I was able to get my mind and my gut on the same page and I was also able to use to my breath to work through shame, fear, and so much anxiety.
I learned the importance of breathing. It isn’t just to sustain life (although that is very important), it is the best way to live this life.
If you do nothing else, I implore you, breathe. Breathe for your soul.