The power of breath awareness in daily life situations
Many times in life we don’t get what we want at the moment we want it. It could be small things such as waiting in line for something, trying to squeeze in a word in a group discussion, or waiting for the coffee pot to boil.
At other times it can be something more meaningful to us - waiting to hear back from that guy or girl we dated and had a good time with, having a Saturday night without plans which feel lonely, being criticised by the boss, or being the boss and trying to hold back from insulting someone against our better judgment.
Even for experienced meditators it is difficult to remember to ground themselves in their practice in the midst of a real situation. The heat of the moment can be so luring, that we forget our practice and why we took it up in the first place, and get completely emotionally absorbed in solving the problem or ridding ourselves of it.
In the few times we do remember to do something, such as connecting to our breath, we find that it was a very good thing to do.
Breathing is powerful in two ways.
First and foremost it helps us detach our senses from the triggers. Instead of listening with all our heart to the person saying the same thing again and again, we move to listen to something else, and so decreases the influence of the outside trigger. The second benefit of connecting to our breath is that it reminds us of life's nature, of something that's always there, which supports us and sustains life within us, and which has a more or less regular rhythm. It also helps us enhance our sense of self, reminding us that we have ourselves to rely on, that we have resources, that we're not alone.
Both these effects of connecting to the breath can help us regain perspective of the sticky situation, hold back on automatic responses which put us back in the same painful place as we're used to, and deal with the situation in a much more creative way than usual. The problem is how to remember to do connect with the breath before we "loose it", before we've acted out, before we're completely out of touch with reality and ourselves and are immersed in an automatic emotional and expressive reaction.
There are a few ways that we can help ourselves with it.
1st, we need to increase motivation and determination. We need to sit down and talk to ourselves and help ourselves realise how bad the influence of this automatic reaction is on our professional, personal, and interpersonal lives. Getting angry, acting out, feeling guilty, having to apologise, or create a stand-off with someone we actually want or need to be in touch with on a regular basis, such as a friend, a relative, or a co-worker.
2nd, with motivation comes mindfulness, and mindfulness brings creative solutions. One such solution can be to put a reminder note to yourself inside a meeting description. For example, when you know you go to visit your parents every Sunday evening, you can set up a reminder based on your physical location, which will pop up as you approach your parents' house, and will remind you to connect to your breath, and/or imagining yourself staying composed and grounded in your breath as your parents talk to you, and any other reminder that works for you.
To summarise, one of my Jujitsu teachers once said in a conference: "Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent". The more we practice connecting to our breath in sticky situations, the more it will be there when we need it.