I breathe in, I breathe out

Just a few minutes ago, I reached for my untouched cup of coffee to take a sip.  It was empty.  I started blankly into its depths, thinking, when did that happen?

I drank the whole cup without knowing it, sipping it idly while doing—what had I been doing?  I couldn’t really recall that either.  I’d been on my computer, doing something…I strained to remember the flavor of a single sip of the coffee, but it was gone.

This reminded me of a question posed at a yoga training earlier this year:

How much time do you spend thinking about…

  • What has happened
  • What is happening
  • What will happen

???

For me, the outside choices greatly outweigh the central.  I flush with embarrassment over a stupid decision made five years ago; my stomach hurts as I worry about what could happen tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I drink a cup of coffee without realizing it.

I’m not saying it isn’t important to think about things outside of right now, but do we really have to think about the past and future so much, when doing so causes us to lose sight of the present?  It’s absurd, when you think about it: the minority of our (at least, of my) time is spent thinking about what I’m actually doing at the moment.  Everything else is devoted to things I have no control over—what’s already happened; or things I have very little control over—what’s not yet happened.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at “practicing presence” on my yoga mat, but it’s still a challenge.  Moving through Sun B’s, I find myself wondering what I’m going to make for dinner, remembering I need to buy toilet paper.  Breathing in savasana, I realize I’m thinking about what happened last week on Dexter (and that’s rarely relaxing).

Per the suggestion of one of my instructors, lately in class I have been repeating to myself, I breathe in, I breathe out. Over and over.  I breathe in, I breathe out.  Sometimes, this leads to thought patterns like:

I breathe in, I breathe out.  I breathe in, I breathe ou—oh, look at that girl, her stomach is so flat, and she has such beautiful back muscles, I should start weight training I don’t know how though, last time I did was in college, wow that was a while ago, I wonder whatever happened to that girl I used to see at the gym, what was her name, I wonder if she’s still with that guy, I should repaint my nails,

And so on.

Some days, I think it’s getting easier.  Other days, I sit up from savasana and think, it’s over?  Where did those 75 minutes go?

But I keep going back to this mantra, class after class: I breathe in, I breathe out.

And slowly, I’ve started to carry this mindset outside the yoga room, doing one thing at a time.

I work at a juice bar, which means lots of repetitive work.  I do the same series of tasks every day.  It’s a great exercise for presence.  Washing one apple at a time, I try to notice the smoothness of its skin, the temperature of the running water.   Instead of being frustrated by the repetition, I try to appreciate it.  I breathe in, I breathe out.

Of course, the operative phrase is I try. There are still days when freshly washed apples rain down on my head from the shelf above, days when I think if I have to wash one more carrot, I will go on a carrot-killing spree, days when I just don’t want to take the time to be present.

Because that’s the thing—presence requires time.  Presence means slowing down.  Is there anything in this world we have less control over than the passage of time?  For control freaks like me, this is a huge part of the challenge.  We are always looking ahead, wanting to know what’s coming and to get there as soon as possible just so we can move on to planning the next thing.  Being present requires letting go, accepting what you can control and admitting what you can’t.

And so I continue: I breathe in, I breathe out.

Especially challenging when its Christmastime and there's a cat chewing on your fingers.

Especially challenging when its Christmastime and there’s a cat chewing on your fingers.

 

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90 Responses to I breathe in, I breathe out

  1. jessicajhill says:

    I’ve been having this same debate lately, and I knew I needed to get back into yoga to help. I’m terrible about wasting hours on the computer, doing a thousand things at once, and then feeling like I got nothing accomplished and wondering what I did for the past two hours. I’m currently living in China, and I find myself daydreaming about my trip to India, and planning for my return trip home – six months from now – instead of paying attention to the things I enjoy about China. Thanks for the inspiration to get serious about living in the now!

  2. I’m going to need to try this “i breathe in, i breathe out” myself… i know what you mean – it can be SO hard to stay in the present no matter how hard you try. but, in the end, all you can do is try. and if you’re mind wanders a bit, so be it :) great post!!!

  3. Fat Runner Chick says:

    interesting post.i like your style of writing

  4. smallpebbles says:

    Hmm……presence takes time? Timeless presence! ….in peace….kai

  5. Great post! I’ve only recently just begun to practice yoga everyday in the morning. “Breathe in, breathe out” is an excellent mantra that I will definitiely be using from now on.

  6. bunsontherun says:

    This practice definitely helps. Thanks for writing about the need for it.

  7. luckykaye says:

    We’ve been using the same mantra in my class, and its good to know someone else has the same mischievious thoughts that refuse to settle. Still, keep practising, it’s all good stuff!

  8. Oneika says:

    I loved this post.

  9. Megan says:

    Beautiful post. Excellent mantra. It reminded me to do the same thing as I walk out into my world today. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. byjanine says:

    I think I will try this one. It is definitely different to just be present, and living in the present.

  12. Nerd With Taste says:

    You have such a good point. Nowadays I don’t even remember why I walk into a room anymore. Congrats on FP! ~ nerdwithtaste.wordpress.com

  13. What a truly beautiful and inspiring post. I need to adopt your mindset.

  14. Lakshmi Loves To Shop says:

    I love your post…I can relate to the monkey mind in savasana…I get that too :-)

  15. artclubblog says:

    I really enjoyed your post. I also find quieting the mind and practising presence very challenging. Ah, the wandering mind! I will try your advice…breath in, breath out.

  16. Maria says:

    I’ve heard it’s not a good idea to regret past decisions (no matter how poor they may seem now) because at some point it was what you thought you needed. Being mindful isn’t difficult but it is easy to forget to do it and so we discover the empty cup without memory of having taken a drink. Breath in, breath out, yes and be in the moment before it vanishes. :-)

  17. I loved your post. I need to do some yoga this season, as well. It has been a while but I used to do Bikram.

  18. notquiteold says:

    I love Yoga. I’ve been practicing for more than eleven years. But my mind is everywhere but in the present. But every one in a while… there I am! And even if it is for one second, it is amazing.

  19. binvested says:

    I have praticed this in the past, and will still go back to it time and again. Thankyou for reminding me. Enjoyed your post.

  20. luvnorcal says:

    I love how it’s snowing on your blog, how do you do that? Or is this some crazy WordPress feature I didn’t know about? Anyway, great post. I can totally relate, as I am exactly the same way. It’s hard to let go of a thought, or not feel bad about a mistake, or daydream about the future. I find when I’m present in the moment, and not worrying about what has happened or what wil happen, then I am really productive and I come home at the end of the day feeling happy, and maybe even refreshed (if I’m not in traffic for 45 mins). Yoga is really great for centering you mind… good that you continue to work at it!

  21. dsmythjr says:

    Excellent. Yoga and meditation are difficult skills to master. Quieting your mind can seem impossible at times.

  22. swalia says:

    ‘Living in the present’ has been instrumental in transforming my life. Breath in, breath out helps in bringing the mind back to present moment. Thanks for the amazing post.

  23. Sometimes breathing takes effort! Great post

  24. natskado says:

    I really wanted to click “like” button more than once as I felt sympathy with what you said! I think I’ve got a great tip to be “for presence”. Thanks!

  25. SevenSix says:

    I really enjoyed reading through your post and can’t wait for part two! I, like so many of us I suspect, have trouble with a racing mind. I learned the “breathe in, breather out” mantra from my mother (who is into yoga though I am not) and I use it primarily when I’m trying to get to sleep. I obsess over embarrassing things (I think) I’ve done, worry about the day I’ll have to wake up to, and generally let my anxieties get the better of me sometimes. But then I squeeze my stuffed spherical rabbit a bit tighter (yes, I am a grown woman who sleeps with a stuffed toy and is not ashamed to share it with the world! Or at least, you.) and just “breathe in, breather out” until I fall asleep or at least my racing mind slows down to a manageable pace and decides to focus on my dreams instead of my perceived shortcomings.

    But enough about me, this was meant to just tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed your post and eagerly await the next installment.

    • ellyn0991 says:

      Yes, I’ve found it’s a GREAT way to help control anxiety, and I do this all the time when I’m trying to sleep as well.

      Your spherical rabbit sounds wonderful!

  26. jude840 says:

    A nice reminder to live life in the moment. I’m looking at my dog just now and she lives her whole life in the moment. No worries about where her next meal is going to come from, she will just lie there on the sofa entirely at ease until some new thing comes along to demand her attention. I sometimes wish I was a dog ;-)

  27. I am guilty of living each day just to get through it and to the next. With two small children life is a blur and I fear one day I wake up 80 years old and have NO idea what I did all those years. I love this mantra and I am going to try to apply it. Thank you for sharing. :-)

  28. Pingback: I breathe in, I breathe out-taking time to feel, let go, let live, and let thyself Evolve « Fluxstruck

  29. Sony Fugaban says:

    This will be my mantra for next year.

  30. Great post, wonderful reminder and thoughts!

  31. Pingback: The Green Eyed Monster | foreverstartingyoga

  32. Jess says:

    Very well written, so much truth in your words.I can totally relate to this post. Being fully present to taste the beauty of being alive, it is so hard to stop and just be sometimes. But we try. :) namaste <3

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