Moving Beyond Terror. First Step: Breathe

Anyone who has ever worked with me, in any teaching capacity, knows my first act when teaching is to get everyone to stop and breathe. Whether I am working with fourth graders or NASA scientists, I always say the following: “Before we start, I’m going to ask you all to stand on up …” and then we go through a moving meditation that incorporates deep breathing, stretching and often pinkie strengthening exercises. Now, of course, the instant I walk into the room, we’ve started. Although I preface my request with a “before we start,” we begin the instant I start speaking. I include everyone who has the capacity to stand (and those who don’t can do everything seated), and we all stand, stretch, and breathe. I guide them through the breathing process to full, deep inhalations and exhalations. It is crucial that we start with this because it sets the tone of presence, learning, and motion from the very beginning.

If our brain has enough oxygen, we will learn more easily and we will be more curious about what we are learning. And that’s how I like it.

The same goes for regular lives. We can take a minute and bring ourselves fully into the present moment. It doesn’t take a ton of specialized techniques. It takes one minute and breath. I encourage you to release all the thoughts that likely jumped up. You know the ones. They are the, “but I have so much to do. I’m too busy to take time to do that.” I’ve heard them all. I’ve said them all. And all I’m asking for is one minute. It is a minute of freedom, and it is one of the best weapons in our arsenal to keep the terror at bay.

It is our breath. So, here’s what you do.

Take a minute. If you feel super busy and super rushed, set an alarm if you need to do that. But here’s the key. You must banish all thoughts of your to-do list, and errands and work-to-do for that entire minute. This moment is just for you, and nothing gets to interrupt it. You won’t need more than that to get started. So, set your alarm for one minute. Then, sit comfortably and take a deep breath. One you know the technique, I’ll ask you to close your eyes. but for the moment, read on. The rules are simple but sometimes hard to follow.
1. Sit
2. Breathe
3. Don’t think about your to do list.
4. Don’t plan the rest of your day.
5. Just sit.
6. And breathe.

The breathing technique is simple. Breathe in for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Breathe out for a count of four. If you do that, you will be able to do it for five full breaths in that one minute.

If you need a guide, here is a video I created.


This is worth it. You are worth it. Take the minute. It is yours. You deserve to get even a tiny break to sit and breathe and think of nothing. And don’t beat yourself up if the thoughts start creeping up. They are good at that. Tell them you’ll get back to them in a bit and then breathe in again.

Once you’ve done this a few times, you will see an ease in your body and mind afterward. Remember, this moment is yours. Guard it. Be sure to do it at least once a day and if you can twice a day.

After you have taken your minute to sit and breathe and be, open your eyes and promise yourself you will gift yourself the stillness and breath again. And please remember to do it. Set an alarm. Remind yourself to make yourself a priority. And it will be incredible because you are worth it. Once you have some of the peace that comes from prioritizing yourself, the art will flow. More on that later.

Tomorrow: the next technique for keeping the terror at bay.

Sending you all my love.

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