Downtown, under the shadow of the skyscrapers, a man walked towards me. I was 70% sure he was going to ask me for money—he had a look of desperation.
“How ya doing?” he called out.
"Okay. How are you?” My dad was back in the hospital and I counted on sunglasses to hide my tears.
He responded, "I'm breathing.”
Days later, I continue to contemplate the simple honesty of his response. It would have been easy for him to lie about how he was feeling, to insist that he was fine and deflect my question with a fake smile (sort of like I did—*gulp*). Instead, he chose to be genuine.
His response reminded me of the benefits of breathing. It can seem effortless: breathing. But sometimes that concentrated action takes focus. Pausing in a moment of panic or pain to take deep breaths can be healing and calming. Scientifically, breath regulation helps blood-pressure and overall health, but we can feel its effects immediately if we choose to. His words—“I’m breathing”—took me back to the most basic of human actions, but also one of the most powerful.
Breathing forms the cornerstone of survival, but also helps restore and build other aspects of our lives. To just take a step back to breathe can create a feeling of peace that washes over us. Insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks— science shows these are aided by just a few simple breaths.
When someone advises: “just take a deep breath,” the impact of such an action can go over my head. Truth time: If I’m deep in tears, I’ll get testy; try to fight it and ultimately I end up grasping for breath. Eventually, I succumb. When I follow their advice I can immediately feel the positive impact. It’s a relief to be able to rely on something so constant. I say this now, but I know I constantly have to re-breathe in these scenarios; it’s a real piece I need to be reminded of over and over.
As I think back to my conversation with the man on the street, I connect the simplicity of his response with the simplicity of action: stop and breathe. It’s perfectly okay to admit when I’m feeling lost or panicky or upset: this is when I know I can turn to the power that lies deep in my very own breaths.
If you need a second to let this soak in, it’s perfectly okay to take a breather. That’s my plan, anyway.
Your Brave Tutu (You’re Brave Too-Too)
-Take courage in delight. Discover power in small moments.