About every hour or so, my smartwatch reminds me to breathe. I stop whatever I’m doing and concentrate on my breath for one full minute. While closing my eyes, I make sure my breath matches the timed prickling I feel on my wrist that tells me to breath in (or is it breathe out? The correct sequence always escapes me). Somewhere in mid-breath, I start thinking “how weird is that? Am I’m so busy that I can’t consciously breathe without a reminder?”. Breathe. How did we get to the point that we need a device (even one as cool as a smart watch) to remind us to take a breath and, more importantly, what are we trying to accomplish?
We do it because we’re stressed. Think about it. We tell people to breathe to calm down. Women in labor focus on breathing to refocus from the pain. We even hold classes to teach them how to do it. We tell people to breathe when they’re angry, hurt or in pain. The idea is that breathing helps bring us into the present. I can recall times saying “Don’t forget to breathe” to someone as they faced the crisis of the week.
We concentrate on our breathing because it brings us into the present. It clears our minds of all the “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” that need our attention. It lets us concentrate on the “what is”. The here. The now. But it is only a beginning. Breathing alone does not bring us into the present. When we concentrate on our breath, we are not taking in the world around us – the sounds, the smells, the meaning of the moment. Breathing is not mindfulness, but it is the road that can lead us there.
Here’s the thing. My resting heart rate is 56 beats per minute (according to my smart watch). Do I really need to be reminded to breathe? I don’t. Instead, I need to remember what’s important. It’s not about my breath, it’s about my priorities. What is important is what is happening right in front of me – every single minute of every single day. Therefore, I intend to turn the tables. Starting today I’m turning off the smartwatch alert that tells me to breathe. Instead, I’m going to set a different alert. Now when it goes off it will simply say “be present”. I’m betting my breathing will take care of itself.
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