Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Connecting More Deeply To Breath

I believe that our relationship to our own breath is so important that a good portion of my book is devoted to the subject. I am always looking for new ways to experience all the nuances of my breath. Fully engaging the breath leads to one very important thing that is both a blessing and a challenge; it augments sensation in the body. That's why we hold our breath when terrified or traumatized. It's a great survival mechanism during an emergency, but I don't want to live my life as if it were an emergency.

When we attend to our breath, we tend to quiet those pesky voices in our head that comment on everything and make us suffer unnecessarily. In a previous entry, "Waiting For Godot And A CAT Scan" on February 9, 2010, I told you that I call the voices in my head, "The Editorial Board." Thinking about the past or the dreaded future usually causes more suffering than feeling what's actually happening in the moment. Breathing is the best way to shift from thinking to feeling. When you take a deep breath when feeling something painful, it may increase awareness of the sensation in the moment, or it may help you relax and cope and make it not seems so bad. The most important thing breathing does is quiet the voices in your head that make you suffer far more than the sensation. When we can't breathe through a medical procedure, it's a good time to choose anesthesia. When you can't breathe through a situation in your life, it's a reasonable coping mechanism to temporarily blunt your reaction to it, but it's not a way to live all of life.

How do I commit to a life of authenticity, of being precise in thinking, feeling, and action, when there's a part of my life that I don't want to feel? If we prefer to live fully, then we must accept the consequences of the whole experience. Sometimes we feel things that are awe-inspiring, and sometimes we have to endure feeling things that we would prefer to avoid. We don't always get a choice.

It's easy when things are going well, but how do I stick to my commitment to live life to its fullest when I am faced with a life-threatening disease, when my future is imperiled, when my material security is at risk of dissolving, and when everyone and everything around me is stressed to the max in order to cope with the unreasonable demands of cancer?

In an attempt to connect more deeply to the healing potential of my breath, I have embarked on learning to play the didgeridoo. It is not only amazing and fun to play, but afterwords, it is incredible to feel the reverberations in my body.

My friend John in The Netherlands plays and sent me this video of a great woman player named Lies Beijerinck:

If you're interested in more information about the didgeridoo, including the study that was done showing it helped cure sleep apnea, go to:

And in the meantime, if you're not into learning the didgeridoo, perhaps you could sing in the shower, hum more often, or come to a Continuum class to cultivate your relationship with your breath. Go to to find a class in your area. 2 mainstream scientific studies have shown humming to be as beneficial as antibiotics in the treatment of sinus infections.

Just devoting a moment to noticing your breath will begin to change it. You don't need to do anything fancy - just attend to your own inhalation and exhalation and something will begin to shift and balance.