How many times has someone said that to you — or you to them — at a time when emotion runs high?  “Just breathe.”  It’s good advice, I think; and it’s a good start to restoring your sense of balance in a stressful situation.  We breathe all the time, from our first breath at birth until the very end of our lives, but we really don’t pay much attention to this amazing phenomenon.

I like to step back from time to time and pay attention to the amazing way that our bodies work.  Think about breathing.  With each breath we take, we draw in oxygen which goes to our lungs, which is absorbed and attaches to our blood, which is pumped by our heart to carry life to all parts of our body.  Then, as though this isn’t amazing enough, we exhale and send carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere and remove the unnecessary waste from our system.  What a great idea it is — breathing!

No doubt there are those of you who have used breathing techniques as part of meditation or relaxation.  It can be very calming and even healing to pay attention to our breath.  So many exercise plans require us to exert tremendous amounts of energy and produce great quantities of sweat in order to reap their benefits.  Breathing, like smiling, is an effortless activity — we all know how to do it without being told — but it can produce a sense of calm, peace, and well-being.  How can you worry about your troubles when you take the time to recognize that you still are breathing?

A common and universal way to get in touch with this miraculous function that we perform without thinking from first breath to last is to draw in a deep breath through the nose, pause for a second, and then exhale fully through your mouth.  It helps to get focused only on your breath if you let yourself make a sighing sound during the exhale.  Don’t hold back!  Exhale completely, so that there is no air at all remaining in your lungs.   Keep on doing this until the rest of the world just fades away; and realize that you are alive and breathing and that all is well with your existence.

Then, as you continue to breathe — which you are very good at doing — begin to notice this:  As you push the air noisily out of your body until it is empty, notice that you really don’t need to work at taking the next breath.  In fact, you would have to work at holding your breath to keep the next one from happening.  Your lungs just naturally inflate after you empty them.  It’s effortless!  It’s as though the whole universe around you is just waiting to give you what you need to keep on living and breathing.  Think about it.  How amazing is it that the oxygen you need to keep your body alive just flows into you every few seconds and you don’t have to expend an ounce of energy in the process!  How can we be anything but grateful for such an amazing system of survival and balance that sustains our existence?  And we don’t even need to think about it!

As we let our breathing fade back into the background of our day and get on with the tasks of life, let’s carry with us the close-up look at this amazing function that brings us what we need for life and allows us to release the things that bring us no benefit.  And remember, if life becomes stressful in any way, just breathe!  You know how to do it, because you’ve done it all your life.