My husband and I recently ventured to Bali where we spent a beautiful three weeks cycling through villages, adventuring through jungles, practicing yoga in Ubud, and traversing many a rice field. Feeling particularly adventurous one day, we signed up for a canyoning tour where we would repel down massive waterfalls, slide down natural rock-formed slides, and jump off cliffs into pools of clear, sparkling water.
At one point in our journey, our Balinese hipster tour-guide gave our group the option to jump off a thirty-foot cliff into the deep pool of water below. In search of a thrill, three men in our group, including my husband, scaled the cliff and proceeded to throw themselves off of it. As I watched, I was faced with an internal conflict. Part of me was quite content watching from below while the other half didn’t want to risk missing an opportunity that I would never have again. I hesitantly climbed to the top of the cliff, attached my carabiner to the safety rope, and inched my way across the slippery rocks to the edge. As I peered over and saw my husband calling from below, I realized it was too late to back out. I unhooked my carabiner and tip toed closer to the launch pad. I could hear my heart pounding through my chest, every muscle in my body tense up, and the feelings of panic settle in. So, naturally, I immediately reattached my carabiner to the safety rope and hugged the rock behind me.
Ahhh, I can breathe again. Breathe, yes, that’s it. I need to calm myself down and my group sure isn’t doing a good job of it as they shout from below. This calm needs to come from within. I start inhaling slowly, trying to get my first full breath of air since I’ve made it to the edge. Then exhale. Yes, this I can do. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Through breathing, I was able to calm the panic that was rising inside me and, in doing so, have a rational internal conversation. I asked myself what I was afraid of and reassured myself that, just moments after I jump, my husband and new friends would be there to greet me, cheering me on, and sharing in this moment of adventure, achievement, and relief. Once again, I unhooked my carabiner, took a deep breath and then a step closer, and then another step off the edge.
Real Life Application:
Now, I realize that it’s not every day we are standing on the edge of a cliff, trying to convince ourselves we are brave enough to take the optional leap for a short-lived adrenalin rush. However, there are and will be many moments throughout life, where you feel that panic set in, stress levels rise, and you need to slow things down a bit. That’s what is just brilliant about our breath. It is always available. Before a meeting, as you prepare to give a speech, or take a final exam, the breath is there to help you find your calm.
Focusing on your breath will help take your attention off of the scary or intimidating thing standing before you. When you go into panic mode, it becomes difficult to rationalize a situation and present yourself with a solution. When I began taking deep breaths on the edge of the cliff, my mind was no longer on the jagged rocks around me or the steep drop below. I was focused on my own rational thought and reasoning. Only then could I calm myself down enough to not succumb to my rising anxiety and pounding heart. The next time you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed or intimidated, take a few moments to take several slow deep breaths. You will be amazed at the power breathing can have at overcoming fears.
Want to learn more about the benefits of mindful breathing? Check out this post on Finding Your Focus Through Breath.