How meditation and breathing exercises can help you see the big picture
During the course of my workday, I notice that people get agitated easily. Be it impatience while waiting for the light to change or the quest for a parking spot. It can be aggravating.
This aggravation is a choice. While we may not be able to choose to be completely happy, we can certainly choose to not let everyday worries get to us. We can make a conscious decision to see the bigger picture of life and not get bogged down in the small stuff.
But how do we do that?
A major component of inner peace and happiness is meditation. What is meditation exactly? When I ask friends, they really don’t know! I try to tip them off that breathing exercises and daily meditation can not only free them from everyday stresses—it can improve overall health.
‘The Breath of Life’ (Chai)
The goal is to reach a place where you can say, “I don’t have one problem or worry in the world right now”—full and complete faith that Hashem is taking care of every one of our needs. When you find that place within yourself, you will be at peace. One of many ways to get there is exercising your respiratory system.
A few reasons people don’t breath is because they don’t have the time - or, they don’t know how to. No time? No excuse! We are doing it all day! Plus, mastering the breath can do wonders for the mind, body, and soul. Meditation is especially effective in the morning so you can start your day with a clean slate, or at the end of a long day.
There are different methods for beginners, but try to start simple. Take as deep of a breath as possible. Do it slowly and purposefully. Meditate by yourself, even if it’s in your car for a few minutes - just make sure your phone is off and nobody is around. You need complete silence to disconnect from brain chatter. I’ve created an effective breathing exercise I call “The Breath of Life.” It’s super easy and takes only 18 seconds per round:
1. Count to five as you breathe in through your nose.
2. Hold that breath for five seconds.
3. Count to eight as you exhale slowly through your mouth.
By engaging your diaphragm - the double-domed sheet of muscle that acts as the top of your abdominal cavity and bottom of your thoracic cavity - you strengthen your respiratory system and the muscles surrounding those organs.
As you inhale, the diaphragm contracts, allowing your lungs to fill with air. You’ll notice that when you breathe, your abdomen expands first, then your ribcage and chest. When you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes and the air leaves your body from the chest, then the ribcage, then the abdomen. The deeper your breath, the higher in your body you’ll feel the expansion.
If you’re not used to heavy breathing like this, lie on your back and place a light object on your stomach. Breathe normally and watch the object move up and down with your breaths. This exercise will help you get in tune with your breath, making it easier to know your body’s limits. (Please consult a doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough for this type of activity.
It’s All Relative
Everything I practice comes from real-world experience. In my line of work, people are going through hardship. So, I need to be able to deal with their stress and mine on a daily basis. Breathing and meditating helps me calm down.
Once you make it a habit, this calm can extend past that one moment. You can begin making things happen. You’ve become strong enough to turn the brain chatter on and off.
Recently, someone came to me in the midst of a panic attack. I told him to lie down on the floor and breathe like he was blowing out a fire. Then I told him to throw a tantrum on the floor for one minute. After he was done, I asked him to transition back to easy breathing.
The man immediately calmed down because this breathing exercise took his mind off of his problem. By letting the panic pass, he proved to himself that he could overcome whatever was worrying him - and, since it was possible this time, he knew he could do the same next time.
Norman Balassiano has 25 years of social services experience. He is certified in yoga-meditation-breathing techniques and hypnosis.