I was sitting with my eyes closed. I took a deep breath through my nose and held it for three seconds. Then I exhaled through my mouth. I observed my chest expanding and contracting with each breath.
I was doing this for five minutes, when a voice from behind me said:
“What the hell are you doing?”
My eyes popped open. I turned around and there was my next -door neighbor. He sat down on the diner stool next to me.
“I’m practicing mindful breathing,” I said, smiling.
“Does it do any good?”
“Oh yes, it calms me down and gives more oxygen to my brain, which makes me feel good.”
My neighbor didn’t look convinced. He ordered a cup of coffee glancing at my yogurt.
“It also helps me stay in the present moment,” I continued, “I just started mindfulness training.”
“Mindfulness! That’s all that meditation stuff isn’t it?”
“Yes it is.”
“Do you sit cross-legged on the floor?”
“No, I don’t. I stand or sit in a chair.”
What’s mindfulness all about?”
“Living in the Present, the only life we have. Our minds have two ways of relating to the world, the Doing Mode and the Being Mode.”
“Oh my, I hope we are not getting into the Twilight Zone?” My neighbor pretended to be afraid.
“Relax, Jim,” that was my neighbor’s name.
“The Doing Mode automates our life by using habits, like tying your shoelaces. It’s also our problem solving mode, but sometimes it over thinks and ends up compounding our difficulties.”
Jim was a study in concentration.
“The Being Mode is a shift in perspective. With mindfulness we experience life through our senses more. It uses the senses to live in the “NOW”.
“Wow! Dave, you’ve got my head whizzing around,” Jim laughed.
“Well, lets get it whizzing around some more,” I said, smiling.
“Jim, do you live a lot in the past and future?”
“Oh yes, I’m always ruminating in the past and thinking about the future when I’m under stress.”
“See Jim, you’re lost in mental time travel at the expense of your precious Present. You create stress for yourself by RE-LIVING past events and then you RE-FEEL their pain. And if you live in the future, stress makes you think disaster is around the corner. So, you’re PRE-LIVING the future and PRE-FEELING its impact!”
“So, Dave, you’re saying mindfulness training is the answer, is that right?”
“Yes, my friend, you need to train your mind so you can live your life as it happens in the Present. You can still remember the past and plan for the future, but you will “see” memory as memory and planning as planning. Then you go back to the only life you have, the Present.”
“Makes sense to me,” said Jim, “But, I always thought people either had a happy disposition or a miserable one! It was encoded in the genes.”
“With mindfulness you can escape that emotional set point and alter your moods. It’s all good stuff, Jim.”
Jim looked quizzical.
“Lets do some breathing exercises:
Deep breath in and hold, 1-2-3-4-5 and exhale slowly through your mouth.
Can you feel the extra oxygen in your brain?”
“I feel something. I feel more relaxed. Why is breathing so important?”
“Jim, the breathing exercise is your anchor to the Present. The best way to keep calm during the day is to have regular breathing spaces.”
“Because breathing is always with you. You can’t live without it. You can live without food for weeks, without water for a few days, but you can’t survive without breathing for more than a few tens of seconds. It is LIFE!”
“Yes, breathing doesn’t need us, the breath breathes itself. Your breath is a moving target to ground you in the Present. Finally, it provides an anchor for your attention.”
We continued breathing exercises for 15 minutes and then we left the diner smiling!
Also published on Medium.
I breath many times a day. It has become a ritual. One day I tried to stop breathing and I passed out, then the breathing started again on it’s own. It didn’t care that I wanted to stop. I found that the breathing controlled me rather than the other way around. It’s a good thing that I have your blog to keep me grounded.
Thanks for being there.
Glad to be of service, Tom.
Great reminder that present is all we really have – unfortunately I have a progressing case of ADD and get distracted easily. I am breathing and notice a big dust ball in the corner and MUST take care of it. Any suggestions. Wear a mask perhaps?
Well written I live in the present and future.
But it is wonderful to recall the past.