Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.
-Thich Nhat Hahn
How can we stay centered amidst the busy nature of our lives? How can we stay aware as we navigate the unclear waters of relationships, working in the marketplace, and dealing with the practicalities of our lives? And how can we stay present and grounded in the now when our mind is constantly filled with thoughts—anticipating the future and remembering the past?
Nothing is permanent—our physical state, our thoughts, our emotions. Absolutely everything—regardless of how pleasant or painful—will change. So trying to cling to something as our foundation, or anchor as Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, is pointless. It would be like trying to hold on to sand as it slips through our fingers.
But the breath, the conscious breath, takes us out of the fabrications of our mind—the anxieties, the stories, the memories, the plans and unfulfilled dreams—and brings us into a direct relationship with what is right now. We don’t have to be sitting in meditation or doing walking meditation to experience this. We can breathe consciously anytime we inhale and exhale. It’s that easy.
Staying with the breath is like staying with the flow of our lives. When we fight the breath, we hyperventilate, we get anxious and eventually we stress out and exhaust our bodies. And, when we fight the flow of our lives, we can become anxious, fearful, angry, and resentful. But, when we breathe consciously, when we live consciously, we are going with the flow. We are listening, responding, working in conjunction with life—with all its challenges, surprises, pain, and joy.
And this breath anchors us through the constantly changing experiences of life. It anchors us to the present moment. To truth, and opens us to love.