Stillness, Suffocation, and the Wisdom in Our Breath

September 13, 2016

Breath has become a huge topic of conversation for me lately. Because breath is everything… it is life and living and all things important. Breath is expansion and growth, expression and soul. Breath is essential. It is second nature and so instinctual that we don’t even think about it.

Until we stop breathing.

I think it happened subtly as time passed, because I honestly couldn’t tell you the day that I first learned to stop breathing. The moment when I chose tension and restriction and a slow suffocation inside my own skin.

I would venture to guess it happened inside one of those moments where I was wounded at the hands or words of someone I loved. Someone who was supposed to love me, support me, and keep me safe. Someone who was stronger than I was, physically and confidently. Someone who decided that I was too much, too intense, or too unsettling to their own beliefs and views of the world, and so they chose to take pieces of me. To cut me down, forcing me to be small and simple.

One of those same moments where I allowed myself, consciously or subconsciously, to be “cut down to size.” To be shaped and molded by someone who deemed me and my ways unpalatable. Where I let someone hurt me so bad that it felt safer to stop breathing.

Because without breath, there is stillness.
And inside stillness surrounded by fear, there’s perceived safety.

So, I stopped breathing.

Frequently enough that it became second nature.
It became my go-to in more situations than I can name.

And only lately have I come to realize how often I stop breathing, because as I’ve shared before, my body no longer lets me lie. It no longer allows me to hide out inside the stillness — inside that false sense of safety from that which I fear — because I’m dying a slow death. My body’s fighting like hell for the oxygen it needs to not just survive, but to thrive.

When I notice that I’m not breathing, that I’m choosing tension and restriction and slow suffocation… I pause and I breathe. I breathe so slowly and deeply that my whole belly expands as wide as it will go. And on the exhale, I tune into the ever impressive wisdom of my breath.

What am I needing in this moment that I’m not getting?
What am I fearing in this moment that is causing me to hide out?
What am I feeling forced into that isn’t aligned for me?
What am I needing to say that I’m unwilling to admit out loud?
What am I avoiding because it will be hard and uncomfortable?
What am I overlooking for myself to make someone else happy?
What am I giving away that I don’t want to let go of?

By giving my breath the voice it never had — the attention it always required — I’m recovering more and more of the pieces that I let others take. More and more of my truth and my desires and a life that feels incredibly aligned.

Breath by breath.
Moment by moment.

I mean, really, truly breathing. Deeply and fully. Slowly and consciously. Breathing is magic in its purest form… and breathing will bring us back to life in ways we didn’t realize we’d been missing. Breathing will bring us home to ourselves. To our bodies. To the kinds of truths that change our lives for the better.

So if you’re struggling… if you’re feeling fearful or uncomfortable… check in with your breath. Check in with your body and where it feels tense and restricted. Where you might feel safer inside of the kind of stillness that is actually suffocating you slowly.

Breathe into it.
Deeply and fully.
Slowly and consciously.

Listen for the wisdom of that breath.
Because there’s more than you realize.

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