From first cry to last sigh, we do it without a thought. Yet the benefits of conscious breathing are truly remarkable.
In my 20s, like many others who find that their mind is poisoning their life, I discovered meditation. Though for a long time I found it impossible, I liked all the encouragements to stop paying attention to my thoughts, because I feared and loathed many of my thoughts. I was less impressed by the suggestion that – to quote the teacher at a retreat I attended – my breath was ‘the most powerful force in the Universe’ or that ‘all wisdom starts with proper breathing’.
Breathing? I thought. That is how I will escape this flirtation with what feels like madness? By breathing? Sat stiffly, failing to follow the most powerful force in the Universe as it moved through my nostrils, I inwardly scoffed, warming myself with my own incredulity.
Five years later, like the once-foolish novice in many a spiritual parable, my annoyance has given way to a degree of understanding. I’m no yogi, and my practice is scattered, improvised and private. But I consider my breathing constantly. In doing this, I flirt with the madness less brazenly, and less often.
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