We were the only two humans there, standing at the top of Brins Mesa, absorbing the incredible stillness into which we’d entered. Hearts racing from the climb, we paused to witness the true majesty of our surroundings. In that moment, nothing else mattered. With chests heaving and legs aching, I was suddenly struck by this realization: all there is, is breath.
I filled up, I emptied out, and there was nothing else to do, but breathe.
Sedona, Arizona. One of my favorite places, and the backdrop for this understanding, or rather, remembering, of the power of the breath.
As a human in the 21st century, I’ve had very few opportunities to truly appreciate just how powerful the breath can be. Yes, as a yoga teacher, I talk about breathing a lot. And yes, I have—and we all have been— breathing since birth. But how often do we allow ourselves to truly experience it? In my case, at least, not nearly enough.
It sounds so simple, right? So why is it so profound? In my case, I can say Sedona pushes me to my limits—physically and emotionally—every time I am there. It has a knack for knowing just what I need and serving me an opportunity to work through it. On this particular day, and perhaps on this entire trip, I was given the reassurance that the breath is there for me, if I only choose to work with it.
And so, as I’ve re-integrated into my daily routine, my responsibilities, my normal life, that wise reminder has remained. We may not know all the answers to our problems. We may not know where to begin. We may not know how to handle what comes next. We may not even know what ‘next’ looks like. But what we do have is our inhale and our exhale. And, if we choose, we can get better acquainted with them. We can know them like we think we know everything else. And we should. Because all of those external distractions, pains, anxieties, even joys, can disappear at any moment. And when obstacles arise and we are pushed to transform, it is often only the breath that can see us through.
If this feels hard to grasp, we can make it easier. Just by noticing how we breathe when we’re at work, with loved ones, spending time outside, spending time doing something we don’t like—this is all information. Ask yourself: If I was just breath, what would my behavior tell me? Do I feel safe and free? Do I feel worried, angry, afraid?
That can be the first step, and maybe the step we play with as we practice deepening our awareness. But then, once we feel comfortable noticing, we might ask a second question: What would it be like if I my breath were smoother, fuller, more complete?
Sometimes, just the question is enough.