I will tell you up front that there is nothing new or original in this post. I also will say that what I offer here is one of the most powerful things that I have ever learned in spiritual practice.
To return to my breath.
My teachers in this are many, but the one who most consistently brought me to the practice of returning to my breath is Thich Nhat Hanh. This is what I have learned from him and continue to practice. No matter where you are, no matter what you are going through, no matter how you feel, no matter what someone has said to you or done to you, peace is as far away as your next breath.
As long as we live, there is always the next breath. When we take the next breath with awareness (as I breathe in, I know that I am breathing in, as I breathe out, I know that I am breathing out) we allow ourselves to let go, a little bit, of whatever has just overwhelmed us and stolen peace away from us. Even taking just one in breath and letting it out with awareness can change what it is going on inside of us. If that thing that has stolen our peace and caused us to suffer is big, then we will want to stay with the breath:
Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out. Again, and again, and again. Until we notice some change in the our breathing, some sort of shift in our breath itself. And then, as we breathe, we might say to ourselves:
Breathing in deeply. Breathing out, slowly. Again, and again, and again. Until we notice that something is beginning to shift, even if very slightly, in our suffering. Perhaps we notice a slight calmness within. And then, as we breathe, we might say to ourselves:
Breathing in, I am calm. Breathing out, I am at ease. Again, and again, and again. Until we notice that we really are beginning to calm down and experience some ease in the suffering. We may feel the tension in our face, neck and shoulders shift, and then, as we breathe, we might say to ourselves:
Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I release what has disturbed me. Again, and again, and again. Until we find that we are just here, now, experiencing some peace again, no longer overwhelmed by the thing that took our peace away. And then, as we breathe, we might say to ourselves:
Breathing in, I am in the Present Moment. Breathing out, it is a Wonderful Moment. Again, and again, and again.
We cannot hide from things that disrupt us and cause us suffering. That’s no way to live. But, we can find relief from our suffering with our very next breath.
Return, again, return again, return to the home of your soul.