Last night I attended an event that included dinner, speakers, raffle giveaways, and surprisingly…. a breathing break! There it was, printed right on the program – 6:20 to 6:30 Breathing Break. When I saw that, I assumed it was just a way to indicate the time that was set aside for taking a “breather” from all the planned activities. “Good,” I thought. “I can get up to move around and maybe use the restroom or get a glass of water.”
I was surprised, then, when 6:20 rolled around and a speaker took to the stage. Instead of being dismissed for a break, all 350 of us were told to stand up and prepare to… breathe. I couldn’t believe it! It was a real live, honest to goodness, they-really-meant-it, breathing break!
First, we were instructed to take a slow deep breath in, and then let it slowly out, and then relax. Breathe in, breathe out, relax. Breathe in, breathe out, relax. I complied, of course, as did most everyone in the room. After a few minutes, I had to admit that it felt rather nice.
Next, we were told to move our arms slowly up in front of us during the inhale, and lower them slowly back down during the exhale. The addition of body movement definitely added to the experience and increased the calming effect. Yet, it was what the speaker said next that I found particularly compelling.
“Now, I want you to imagine that you are breathing with your heart,” they said. My mind flew immediately to my favorite takeaway from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. I have never forgotten the part where her Balinese guru guy advises her to smile with her liver.
“Breathe with your heart and smile with your liver,” I told myself. While I stood there with my eyes closed, visualizing my heart filling my lungs with air and my liver sitting there as happy as a clam, I felt happy, too. I couldn’t help it!
In that moment, the room full of people disappeared. It was just me and my body in this vast universe and it didn’t matter what I had been frustrated about at work, or what had made me worried or angry or sad earlier that day. Instead, I was fully present in that moment, fully present in my body, and fully present with myself. I wasn’t thinking anything at all, but I was definitely feeling something. It was called… peace.
When the breathing break was over, I opened my eyes feeling like I had been given a gift. I didn’t end up winning any of the raffle prizes, but I felt more blessed than if I had been the lucky recipient of the mini car detailing certificate. And why shouldn’t I? After all, what exactly is a mini car detailing anyway? Do they just toss out any garbage, spritz the inside with air freshener, and call it good? Shoot! I could do that!
In fact, I just might do it right now so that I have a nice clean place to breathe in, breathe out, and relax. But first, I’m going to breathe just a little bit longer right where I’m at.