They say that when you are hyperventilating, the last thing you should do is focus on the breath, that trying so hard to inhale is actually the problem— you’re overbreathing; the best remedy is to breathe out (or sing a sing) and the inhale will take care of itself. See, the inhale is inherently about trust, it’s believing that the next breath is going to happen.
Anxiety lacks trust. You don’t believe or trust that your body and the universe will support you (or keep you alive and safe). One of the best and often hardest ways to develop this trust is to let go of controlling the breath. Of “letting yourself be breathed.” Just like a lot of things in yoga, it’s very simple but that does not mean it’s easy—as humans, our minds like to complicate things.
But then there’s a moment— and in that moment, you go beyond breath, where you are letting yourself experience all those many millions of moments where you never bring awareness to your breath, when you don’t try to breathe and yet you are still alive, still getting breathed by the universe, when you stop taking your breath for granted without trying to change it.
You’re just feeling it rise and fall, letting it happen with full trust and awareness. This is the place where you can intimately experience (without having to believe or think about it) the nurturing force of the universe. You can directly feel some force sustaining you.
I’m not just talking about breath here, though. It’s writing too. I thought of both when I came across this poem below:
Do you think I know what I’m doing,
That for a moment, or even half a moment,
I know what verses will come from my mouth?
I am no more than a pen in a writer’s hand,
No more than a ball smacked around by a polo stick!
The best writing is when I get that same feeling; the keypad won’t move fast enough, I’m beyond thought or “trying” to write, I’m totally trusting what is pouring from my fingers and it’s not “me” who’s doing it, it’s whatever is rising up from inside of me. This is not just an exercise in trust, but one in humility. It’s beyond talent. My writing feels most authentic as a gift from something not quite within my control.