The Fine Art Of Breathing

I read an article the other day about how people breathe when they run. It basically boiled down to people breathing in on a regular cadence so that the in and out breaths aligned with the same foot each time, which can contribute to longer-term injuries for some people (always breathing in on the left foot and out on the right, for example). The article also mentioned that runner tend to take shallow breaths, which hurts their overall efficiency. The suggestion was to take deeper “belly breaths”, breathing into and out of your diaphragm for better overall lung usage, and to do it on sets of five steps so that your breaths in alternated feet.  I tried a modified version of the technique, taking deep and slow breaths every third inhalation or so, and it seemed to work really well. I ran faster and felt much stronger through the run.

This got me me thinking about mediation. I’ve always viewed my running as a form of meditation, and the breathing exercise while running seemed right out of a Tara Branch book.

Late last year I read a book by Dan Harris called 10% Happier. In short, he described how he has used meditation to calm the voices in his head and establish better focus. Dan wasn’t interested in the mystic side of meditation (one of my favorite quotes from him is “I didn’t want to live in yurt or be one of those people who uses ‘namaste‘ unironically.”). He wanted to use it to gain some sense of control while still maintaining his edge. This appealed to me, so I dove into the book.  I didn’t start meditating right away, but I did start implementing some mindfulness practices. I reminded myself to “respond, don’t react.” I also tried to live by the mantra “don’t give a $5 response to a 50 cent problem.”  And it worked.  Quite well, actually.  I made it through most of the first quarter of the year calmer and more relaxed than I had been in years.  Eventually, I started meditating for 10-15 minutes a few days a a week. I found that practicing after work calmed me down and allowed me to let go of the stress of the day.

As usual, we’re about 400 words into the post, so it’s time to ask the question “yes, but what does that have to do with retirement?”  Quite a bit, actually. Over the past few months I’ve fallen off the meditation wagon. It’s been weeks since I’ve spent a little quiet time practicing. I’ve been intending to get back to meditation while I have time during my days, but it hasn’t been a priority. Until this past week.

My town of MAYBERRY is going through a local election cycle right now. Candidates are beginning to put signs out and people are starting to state their opinions, and, well… it’s ugly. Friends aren’t being friendly. Battle lines are being drawn over signs in yards or posts on websites.  People are calling one another names or making horrible accusations or comments about one another. Quite honestly, it’s awful. THE WIFE and I live in a great little town full of friendly people who all seem to genuinely like one another, but every few years folks tend to forget that and come a bit unhinged. There have been rumors that a neighbor had her dog shot because of an opinion her husband voiced at a council meeting. At another meeting, someone apparently threw a punch. It’s surreal.

People need to remember to breathe. They need to keep in mind that these same people they are demonizing today will still be their neighbors after the election. I’ve spoken to a number of friends, and we definitely disagree about a number of issues; but we still find a way to move past that. It’s okay to have a different opinion than your friends.  No… really.

Between the article about running and MAYBERRY GONE WILD!, I think the time to start meditating again is now. I need to be calm and collected. I need to respond, not react. And I need to set an example to my friends and neighbors about how an adult is supposed to act. I’m sure the return to practice will help me when I go back to work, too, so I may as well start today.

Either that, or I’m going to have to start carrying a bat when I go to town.

The lyrics to Don’t Wanna Know Why seem rather appropriate about now.

Don’t wanna know why you like me I don’t care
Don’t wanna know why I walk by and you stare
Don’t wanna know why just to wanna know why
Don’t wanna know why just to wanna know why

When I… Breathe in, breathe out.
Carry on, carry out.
Try to… Drive through your life
Breathe in, breathe out.
Carry on, carry out.
Try to… Never say goodbye

Don’t wanna know how you’re feeling I don’t care
Don’t wanna know when you’ll meet me I’m not there
Don’t wanna know why just to wanna know why
Don’t wanna know why just to wanna know why

When I… Breathe in, breathe out.
Carry on, carry out.
Try to… Drive through your life
Breathe in, breathe out.
Carry on, carry out.
Try to… Never say goodbye

I wish I knew
How to tell you
How to tell me why

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