Atem is the German word for breathing. It is derived from Sanskrit word “ayāma,” meaning to extend or draw out. The breath is formless. Meaning, it is not an object, has no shape, nor is it tangible. This is why being aware of how you breathe is one of the best ways to bring space into your life.
Breathing is often said to be one of the most subtle and seemingly insignificant phenomena. It was Nietzsche who remarked it is the ‘least thing’ that makes up the ‘best happiness.’
Being aware of how you breathe propels you into the present moment and it is the doorway to inner transformation. Why? Because when you are conscious of how you breathe, you become present and are led to higher consciousness.
It isn’t possible to think and be fully aware of and present with your breathing. Try it now. You will see that conscious breathing stops the mind but not to the extent that you are moved into a daze, but rather to a heightened alertness.
Giving attention to your breathing, even if only for a few seconds, creates gaps of space – pockets of peace of mind where incessant thinking ceases to be. In time, the gaps increase on their own and we discover inner space more consistently.
Be aware of your breathing right now. Can you feel the sensation of your breath? Feel the air moving in and out of your lungs and body. Notice how your chest rises and falls with each breath.
Just one conscious breath – a breath taken with mindfulness – is enough to make space, when in moments before, there was relentless mind chatter and thought, one after the other after the other. Breathing brings this to a standstill. A few conscious breaths at various moments in your day will bring space into your life. It replaces thinking.
Breathing occurs naturally and gracefully and should not feel like work. The deeper intelligence in the body is the driving force. All you have to do, as you become more aware of it, is to watch it happen. Notice the gentle pause as your out-breath moves to its end, just prior to taking a breath inward again.
Many of us unknowingly have very shallow breath. This is not our natural way of breathing. The more you are aware of your breathing, you begin to re-establish your breathing at a natural depth and full expansion.
Try this to find stillness:
- When you notice you are constantly thinking, feeling rushed, anger, tension, grief, or even a compulsive need (smoking, drinking, TV watching, over eating) of some kind, simply stop and take three breaths. This instantly generates presence and awareness. Can you feel the subtle sense of aliveness rush through your entire body as you do this?
- Then, for a few minutes, be aware of the low vibration emotion itself (or compulsive urge) as an energy field inside you. Consciously feel that emotion or the compulsive need to physically or mentally take part in the compulsive behavior. Be an observer of it, watch it. Seeing it as separate from you releases its power over you as you come to realize it is not you.
- Then take a few more conscious breaths. You may feel the emotion or compulsive urge disappear. You might feel the emotion is still there and you can’t help but feel it. This is okay. Don’t make it into a problem. Rather, make the emotion a part of your awareness and practice observing it as mentioned above. As awareness of the emotion grows and as you see it as not you, but separate from you, in time it will weaken and disappear.
Most people are so distracted by their thoughts they can no longer feel the aliveness that their breathing brings. So then, the bridge delivering them to their innate wellbeing escapes them. Whenever you can, whenever it comes to mind in your day, center on your breathing. It is more spiritually transformative than any book, course, coaching or learning of any kind. And, the expense is nil, save for a few priceless moments of time.
However, if you are feeling overwhelmed and need help with your breath work, then bring conscious breathing into your life with my Summer Stillness Special.