Process all these ideas to see if they are in alignment with what you know to be true. If you are patient I promise this will be worth the read.
Understanding our habits to create more awareness
In the hustle of our day-to-day lives, we often lose sight of our physical bodies. I know that sounds impossible, but we like to think “I am my body, how can I lose that?” Let’s see if I can make sense out of this. It may not be easy to grasp but if you look at it from a different perspective you will gain some insight.
Out of all the things we focus our attention on, one of the last things we pay attention to is our own physical body. Our mind and our body are different parts of ourselves they serve different purposes. The physical body carries us around; it allows us to interact physically in our world. Think of it as a cup or a bottle and our mind is whatever we choose to fill that cup up with.
As we experience and interact with the world- we discover new things and develop methods for interacting with our world that doesn’t require us to use our brain for making complicated decisions. These things are our habits or repetitive patterns of behavior. Our bodies run on energy, so we tend to conserve more, or consume more energy, so our bodies always perform the way we need them to. Since the brain is a part of the body it also consumes energy, and because of that, we perform daily tasks and create routines that don’t require us to waste energy learning new ideas. Those routines are our habits, our habits can be thought patterns, coping mechanisms such as eating when we feel sad, or singing when we feel happy. We develop these habits and we identify with them and consider them a part of our identity.
We are programmed to run on auto-pilot
Most of our physical body is a mystery to us and science hasn’t broken down all the concepts about the body to us in ways that are common knowledge. We’re learning new things about the body every day. Our bodily functions are designed by nature to run on auto-pilot and we become less sensitive to our physical body unless it signals us to immediate attention. If we get cut or break a bone we become hyper-aware of the space in our body demanding our attention. Most times we may have not been paying attention to parts of our body until moments of pain, this makes me think of one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, “Hurt”. It perfectly describes when we become disconnected from our physical selves. In the song he says “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel, I focus on the pain the only thing that’s real.” In the song he’s become so disconnected with himself that he has to be sure he can still feel something so, he hurts himself just to feel pain.
It should be obvious that we are designed to feel, but sometimes there’s a disconnect between how we feel and how we respond to our physical body. We become less sensitive to signals from our body and we end up feeling it less. Now, with all of that being said I’ll describe the breath.
The importance of the breath
We have little control over some of our internal bodily functions. We can’t tell our stomachs not to digest what we eat, we can’t tell our liver to stop working, and we can’t tell our hearts to stop beating. We can, however, manage our breathing, and we respond to things with our breath more often than we notice. When we’re anxious or excited we breathe shorter, harder, or faster. When we’re depressed or upset we tend to clench our breathing or breathe more shallowly than normal.
Don’t believe me? Pay attention to your breath.
Our breath plays a major role in our lives, if we stop breathing our body begins to panic and we may potentially blackout. Once that happens, our lungs will naturally inhale and exhale again even if we are unconscious. The benefits of paying attention to our breath are more important than we tend to consider. Since we have control over how we breathe and how we breathe can determine our state of being, all that’s left to do is understand how it affects us mentally and physically.
“But why would I care about how I’m breathing, I’m doing just fine at it. I’ve been breathing my whole life, this is stupid”
Well, that’s a good question.
The breath can be associated with our emotional state. Let’s go back to that cup of water I mentioned earlier. The cup is your body and what you put into it is your mind (ideally you want it to be water). If you like Bruce Lee then maybe this analogy is for you. Since we have emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, and excitement our bodies respond to them differently. Your breath in this case would be the emotional state that affects your cup of water. Many people think we do not have control over our own emotions but that simply isn’t true. The more control you have over your breath the more the water can remain in the glass without spilling over. If you can control your mind, you can be like water taking the shape of a glass. To understand your emotions you need to pay attention to the breath and what it’s telling you.
“But what if I smoke, I’m focusing on my breath and it doesn’t feel any different.”
What are you doing when you smoke? Many studies determine the negative impact smoking has on the body. Really what you are doing is connecting with your breath and trying to control your emotional state if you think about it. It’s easier to notice your breath when you have a clear sense of inhaling and exhaling attached to your breathing. You can feel the smoke coming into your lungs and feel it when you exhale, which is ideally what you want to accomplish without using cigarettes as the method behind it. The concern here is that it is harmful to our bodies and can lead to death –not instantly, but the long-term impact isn’t pretty.
With this example, the point I want to make clear is that for us to feel more connected to ourselves focusing on our breath is beneficial and therapeutic. It gives us a sense of control over our minds and as we develop a habit of being conscious of our breathing we are more aware of our feelings and we can learn to control our emotions. There are also interesting exercises on breath control and meditation if you’re into that kind of thing. It never hurts to try something new
If you made it this far did you notice how your breathing was while reading through this? Did you stop and think about anything that may have given you a subtle reaction through your breathing?
Stay present and connect with your body, feel more, focus more, and remember to take time to breathe. It might save your life one day.