Today, my post for The Pagan Blog Project is about Breath; our own breath and the breath of nature, and how noticing our own breath can help us connect with the breath of nature. I’m sure you’ll agree that most of the time we take breathing for granted don’t we? It’s something we do without thinking about, automatically. In fact it’s only when we are fighting for breath that we really notice it and it becomes precious to us. But think for a moment about how wonderfully made we really are – we don’t have to think about breathing. It’s something our bodies do automatically. From the moment we are born we breathe – how many breaths is that? If you can figure that out I’ll be impressed. In fact, I think really we rather neglect the wonderful phenomenon of breathing. Why? Because our breathing is very much tied up with how we react and interact with our lives and that of others. Take anxiety for example, when we are anxious our breathing becomes shallow and speeds up (our bodies go into fight or flight mode). Left unchecked, for some of us, this can end in a full-blown panic attack, which actually makes the whole thing worse. Then there’s meditation and this is something many people find hard to do because they can’t stop focussing on their thoughts. In Mindfulness training we are taught to focus just on our breathing – the in breath and the out breath, and this isn’t easy when there’s a ton of thoughts swirling around one’s head at the same time.
However, focusing on just one’s breath is very important, not just in times of anxiety but all the time. Try this exercise – right now, stop reading and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. The in breath and the out breath…notice how you are breathing. When we are in the present moment our breathing should be even and from our bellies. If we are anxious or not in the present moment, our breathing will be shallow and from our chests. The mistake a lot of people make in meditation is to get all stressed out about not being able to clear their minds. They can’t stop ‘monkey mind’ and try to force their thoughts away. The technique is to just re-focus on breathing when thoughts pop into our minds. Don’t try to force them out. Just re-focus on your breath. By doing this our thoughts will naturally move into the background of our consciousness. This does take practice of course but by keeping on re-focusing on our breath…the in…and the out…eventually we will naturally fall into a meditative state.
So how is our breathing connected with the breath of nature? And what is the breath of nature anyway? Does nature breathe? Yes! Have you ever been in a woodland, or a park, or even your own back garden and heard nature breathing? I’m sure you have but just haven’t recognised it. It’s the sound of nature – the sun dappled trees, the breeze rustling the leaves, the hum of insects, the bird song, the scent of flowers…all these are the breath of nature. Quite often we miss nature breathing as we go about our busy lives. But to connect (or re-connect) with nature we need to just take a moment to focus on our own breathing…the in and the out…slowly and evenly…and then we sense nature’s breath. Even in busy surroundings you can do this. For example, the other day I was walking down a fairly busy street that was bordered on one side with trees and bushes. I saw in amongst the bare branches a little robin, so stopped to watch it. He was singing his little heart out and I could easily hear him despite the cars passing by on the road next to me. I focused on my breathing and watched the robin and suddenly his song became stronger and almost drowned out the noise of the cars and passersby…because I had tuned into the breath of nature. In that moment nature and I were one and it was a joyous and uplifting moment.
So I challenge you all to practice tuning in to the breath of nature. It doesn’t have to be for a long time – even just a few minutes a day is worthwhile. And nature will bless you abundantly.
Photo credit: K.Sell