Today, I am going to write a short post about a simple practice to keep in your toolkit. It’s a technique called “breathing through the intensity.” I did not create this technique – it’s ancient – so I lay no claims to it. I’m just sharing, once again, a method for coping and thriving.
Let me start by painting a picture:
You’ve just woken up and already you notice the thin, yellow layer of pollen on your bedside table. Your runny nose testifies that it is, indeed, motherfucking spring. You stumble to the bathroom to ready your mucus-y self for another work day.
On the drive in, some asshole gets in front of you to turn left at the red light where there is a sign explicitly stating “NO LEFT TURNS.” While you wait four and a half minutes for him to make his turn, you think about the letter you sent to Caleb a few weeks ago and how he hasn’t responded. Perhaps you had too much faith in the vulnerability of the human spirit.
You finally pull into work and see – hrnph – the security guard who is always tracking you down. Today, you don’t have the patience: You ran out of Mucinex and you don’t have the mental clarity needed to dodge his advances. So you walk quickly – run, really – and dip your head to him while smiling at the ground.
Finally, desk. As you put your purse away, your boss swings by to tell you, “We really do prefer closed toe shoes in the office.”
We have all been at this point. We have that person, those triggers, that tone that sends us into anger. So how do we cope? How do we take this moment and not pack it around our bodies, setting a terrible mood for the day?
I suggest this:
Excuse yourself as gracefully as possible. Go to a semi-private area where you can be alone for two minutes. Once there, sit and place your hands on your belly. Feel the air pull into the hollow. Feel it push back out into the world. That air is the same air we all share. Continue breathing deep breaths with your hands on your belly for two minutes. If you can, even make the Darth Vader noise with your breath. Feel the breath curl up and along the top of your mouth. Then push it out forcefully.
My yoga teacher calls this “breathing through the intensity.” In yoga, we use this breath to breathe when a move stretches our muscles to the almost-painful point. When you breathe like this, you are able to sink further into the position, to actually embrace and engage with a painful moment in a useful way.
We can use this same practice in our everyday when up against our stressors.
Care for yourself so you have the energy to care for others.