I'll start with transparency. It's where I always start.
My nervous system, it's been through the ringer. I was in my twenties and thirties, having severe anxiety and suffering big time, before I realized what was really going on in there. My nervous system was hijacked with relatively perpetual fight or flight activation, and it didn't feel good.
I was a successful school administrator and mother, but completely buckled at public speaking or criticism of any kind. I looked very put together, and then yet, I could crumble given a certain set of conditions.
In fact, at thirty-three, my adrenals actually crashed. I was sick from chronic stress, which had started decades before. By my thirties, I already had a meditation practice, was already trained as a mindfulness educator, and I was already teaching mindfulness skills to children. I had the skills, and I was using them, but my body was just so tired.
Through the process of reconnecting to my own somatic experience, and doing a lot of work to know myself better, heal those old fight or flight patterns that came from old trauma, and understand the nervous system, I was able to strengthen my body, mind, and, by default actually, spirit as well. Beginning with the breath, I literally climbed out of my own suffering, and not too long afterward, I actually started thriving.
The breath is always with us. When I teach mindfulness to children, the very first thing I teach is a mindfulness metaphor of a boat and an anchor. If we don't want the boat of our awareness to bob away on an endless sea of potential thought, we focus on our anchor - our breath.
Through the years, the breath has become more than just a tool for self-regulation. We've all heard the sage advice when nervous, "Take a deep breath." It helps, to be sure. However, a relationship with the breath opens doors. It opens doors to wellness beyond what most can currently comprehend.
Watch it - your breath - for just a moment right now. Follow it with an open curiosity. Where does it flow? Where does it land? Where might it greet a tense muscle or stop? Where might it get held?
These are questions that we can ask to begin a breath-based awareness practice in mindfulness.
And then, maybe we can set a timer and try to focus for five minutes, and then ten, and our practice continues to develop. We can observe how our nervous system wants to relax, and maybe hasn't truly done so in quite some time. Over time, we see that this is about so much more than breathing. Over time, we learn to bring the breath awareness into the full body, and then, one day, we are breath embodied. We are part of a whole, a system, with interconnected parts. We can have good days or bad, and we know, we are solidly embodied, and we are ready, for whatever comes next. In the embodied breath, in your embodied breath, you will discover your personal power, your potential, your goals and your willingness to lean into them.
This is the journey. A journey toward embodied breath as the basis for embodied awakening.