When people tell me they’re “foodies,” my very first reaction is, “Foodie? I am too! I’m also a breathie.” Just like the necessity of eating food, breathing is automatic. Also similar to the eating of food, we don’t always do it the best way. We breathe differently when we are stressing. We breathe differently when we are happy, when we are asleep, and when we exercise. It’s no wonder one of the best meditations is simply focusing on your breath — counting your breathing in and breathing out.
Right now, there is panic all over the world. Do not get me wrong — I am really good at panic. That’s one of the reasons I tend to dive right into a panic mode. Go with your strengths, am I right?
But when I look at my life, panicking has never gotten me anywhere good, nowhere healthy and never one good night sleep. So why should I panic, aside from my obvious mastery of the skill?
Last week I caught a cold. I think it’s just a plain, ol’ cold, but it’s an upper respiratory infection, and although I never developed a fever, the possibility of me catching COVID-19 did cross my mind. Approximately seventy three times, or so, if I am being honest (and specific). But then I thought, “OK, so what if I caught the pandemic/flu/plague. What can I actually do about it? Nothing. Bubkes. Nada.” It’s true. I was feeling way too crappy to run around screaming and waving my arms up in the air like in a bad Japanese monster movie.
So, I took a breath. Just one deep breath. Followed by another. Pretty soon I was deep breathing like a champion.
I don’t meditate — not real meditation. I listen to short meditations from time to time via an app, but it’s a lot like dipping my toe into pool — it’s not called swimming. But counting my deep breaths is something I can and do often.
The simple truth is none of us can control much of anything, outside of us — and not that much inside of us, either. The Talmud (Jewish oral tradition, written down) asks, “Who is strong?” and answers, “They who can control their strong impulses (anger).” Controlling my strong impulses takes a lot out of me, a lot of patience, a lot of work. When I was younger, I did martial arts, worked out my aggression and anger with control and mastery of form. Now that I am older and fatter, not to mention much more out of shape, taking a walk helps me be calm, but so does deep breathing, something so fundamental and vital to life.
Breathing, mindful breathing, is underrated. And despite being an automatic bodily function, is still under our control. Therefore, I will control what I can control. One deep breath at a time.