Breathing Room


These three things that matter can most often be found within another three states: Silence, Stillness and Spaciousness.  How our ego puts up a fight against even dipping one single toe into a space large enough to hold a full inhale and exhale in this very moment.

Try this simple exercise and see what happens – stand with feet planted on the floor about a hip distance apart, arms at your side with palms facing forward.  Watch as a full breath starts from the belly, expands the ribcage and back, then cascades like a waterfall on the exhale pausing in the pool of breath at the bottom.    Take several breaths this way.

Now close your eyes and lean forward as far as you can without tipping over.  Watch what happens to the breath.  Now come back to center and root down.  Watch what happens to the breath and be aware of all the micro-movements and adjustments the body must make in order to simply stand upright.

For most of us this simple exercise reflects what happens constantly all day long.  We lean into the future and our breath is literally held as our mind takes us to the next thing on the agenda.  There is no breathing room.

I experienced that today in a conscious exercise in yoga class.  As we moved very slowly from one pose to the next the mind wanted to revolt, to run, to judge, to do anything but be quiet to the burning muscle or the reflex thought about tomorrow.  Instead we were instructed to place our mind on gentleness within the silence, stillness and spaciousness that grew as each breath passed.

To gracefully let go of the ego’s urging to move out of the pose, run to the bathroom, or chant the mantra – this is too hard!  Watch the breath, love the body, let go gracefully of what is not meant for you.  How much more do we suffer if we don’t give enough breathing room to expand the moment that we are in right now?




941546_10201139084457154_1085573193_nOTHER BLOGS BY GAYE ABBOTT:

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Magical Breathing Space


Having just returned home from an early evening walk…that magical time when light is fading, birds outlined in the sky heading for their evening resting places, and the sounds of insects everywhere.  A few years ago I spent some time in Vermont and remember with great delight the first time – YES, the very first time – that I saw a firefly.  Seems that they don’t have those magical creatures in California where I lived for most of my life.

It was with absolute awe and delight that I watched these insects of light create a sort of fairyland in the surrounding fields and gardens.  I remember feeling like a small child who was somehow transported to a magical land where the path was lit by very small creatures especially for me.

Tonight, in the periphery of my vision, I caught a flash of light.  I could hardly believe that it might have been a firefly for this is my 3rd summer in Austin and I don’t remember seeing any the previous 2 summers.  But true to their magical character they proved to me that indeed they were out this evening as I spotted flashes of light along the path I was walking.

I watched my breath deepen and open and realized that it was not just the fireflies that were magical.  It was my inhale and exhale that stopped me in my tracks.  Some huge number leapt out at me from my brains store of facts taken from the many workshops on breathing that I have done over the years.

The average respiration rate for a person at rest is about 16 breaths per minute.
This means on average, we breathe about 960 breaths an hour
23040 breaths a day
8409600 a year
If a person lives to 80, then that means on average they will take 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime!

(Note:  this does not include that our breath rate is faster as a child, and that breathing rate does increase when we exercise!)

For each breath we take there is potential.  Like the fireflies that I did not notice the two summers prior to this one, many breaths have passed in my lifetime without gratitude for this magical process that gives us life.  Although science can answer our questions about why the firefly lights up at the end of its body,  and how our breath physiologically occurs – what cannot be answered completely is the source and creation of light and breath.

May we always remember that there is mystery and magic to life.  Each breath treasured and celebrated!



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Just Breathe


How many moments in our day are we not present?  How many times do we think of where we want to be instead of where we are right now?

Valuing the moment puts us in touch with our bodies, our heart, and the present experience we are having.  Sometimes there are events and situations in our life that create a desire not to be present….to do anything but be present…to actually rush headlong into something else, somewhere else, or to someone else in order to avoid the richness (or pain) of the experience we are currently having.

Could it be if we truly did believe that “we are where we need to be” in any given moment that the unfolding of our lives would teach us that there is a wisdom to the progression of these very moments.

Clarity and awareness often are elusive if we don’t allow the natural unfolding of things.  That could mean a very painful, fearful or emotionally charged life event.  You know, the one where you want to be anywhere but there!  Or it could even be a fallow period where nothing seems to be happening and boredom sets in.

The simple act of breathing consciously allows anchoring in these moments.  428219_10151416538395435_697790100_n

It forces us to be true to ourselves and to take a look  at exactly what is happening without overt reaction.  It is in the power of witnessing,  followed by an acceptance that we have a major role in creating our present set of life circumstances.  Some call that accountability.

We are where we need to be for our growth, and awareness of the next step to take.  It is not always pleasant – but it is almost always enlightening and can often be transforming.

It all started coming down the birth canal and embodiment here and now won’t stop until you take that last breath.

How simple to accept that we are where we need to be….and just breathe.



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The Best Is Hidden

Here it is 2am in the morning and I am wide awake.  I want to let you know that this is unusual for me.  Most nights I not only fall asleep within minutes, but stay soundly asleep all night.  Could it be a beautiful dinner with fine wine and what I call “bordering on erotic” food preceding turning out the lights?  Or might it be that the hidden is coming to light and is calling me to write, paint, dance or sing it’s song, not willing to let me rest until I pay homage to it’s messages?

Reaching into my book case a brand new and waiting to be read book falls off the shelf into my hands.  I open to the acknowledgements and read the following – “There is a Sufi expression, “the best is hidden”.  …. My teachers are like the jasmine whose flowers only release their fragrant secrets as the day-times brilliant sunlight gives way to the evening’s subtler shifts of light and energy.  The only way to honor them is to breathe them in and experience peace.”  James O’Dea, Cultivating Peace

How many times in a day do we stop and honor the subtler parts of the experiences we are having in the moment?  Even now at this early hour of the morning I feel the delight of fingers moving on the keyboard recording the thoughts that weave their way through me and back out to you. I don’t even know where they will take me or what your experience will be once you have read them. The pure adventure and unknown of it delights me.

Perhaps these hidden moments lay in waiting like the jasmine flowers, or the many teachers that move in and out of our lives – until just the right moment in time when we are the most susceptible to their encouragement to breathe them in –  forever changed within the embrace.

This week choose to be vulnerable, open and aware to what may lay hidden within the next breath.  Be willing to let go and say YES to whatever the experience may be.  Resistance does not live here.  The best of living an open life does….

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Breath Technique or Practice Breath Awareness?

In January of this year, with full joy, I launched a book on the breath entitled, Give Us This Day Our Daily Breath: Weekly Breathing Spaces to Delight, Rest and Reflect In.  It was a birth that had been in gestation for quite a long while…and the actual delivery left me filled with grace and a joyful satisfaction that I had courageously said YES to what I am passionate about without holding back.

For me, it was an action of awareness.  Awareness that I had something to share with the world that every single person could benefit from.  This action of awareness has taken me into the joys of writing and sharing with essentially abandon to the process of creation.  Mining the depths of something that continually fascinates and feeds me – the breath – and expanding that passion to other areas of interest is a “practice of awareness in the moment”.

Just today I received an e-mail from a dear friend which moved me to write this post.  Below is an excerpted part of what she wrote to me and a portion of my response.

“I don’t know if I told you but I carried your book in my bag for a long time.  I would read it at work or in the evenings when I was home and had more time to savor the delightful passages.  My issue is that I get started on a breathing/meditation program but the enthusiasm only lasts for a couple of weeks or months;  then I taper off and before long I have stopped my practice. “ R.B.

“I have a bias R.  To me any “breathing exercise” or “technique” is really only beneficial if it creates a state of being consciously aware of a full embodied breath from moment to moment.  There are many breath techniques that can be immensely beneficial, however are they sustainable and do they shift our awareness to be present in our daily moments of living?

I have learned to simply take 5 minute (or less) “breath breaks” scattered throughout the day to check in. Scanning the body brings awareness to any tension in the body, holding of the breath, or shallow breathing….. without judgement.  Taking a few fully engaged breaths expanding and releasing all of the primary breathing muscles – diaphragm, intercostal (between the ribs) and abdominal, reminds me of being present NOW no matter what is happening,  and allows me to feel alive not just in my mind! The body loves this attention!!

This breath practice of awareness has now become a “habit” in my tool bag that I carry with me everywhere.  I say, if the breath allows us to be more present in the moment to what is happening, and deepens our participation and awareness in that moment, then it has done it’s job (more than merely keeping us alive that is..:-) What a great tool to enliven our life moments!” G. A.


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Breathing Change Into The Moment

Millions of people all over the world know the song “A Change Is Gonna Come” first recorded by Sam Cooke in 1963.  This song speaks to so many things – among them the hope for freedom of a people “enslaved” for so very long, the inevitable change that occurs in daily life, the connection and bond between people that can help to create change, as well as the intentions that lead to change.

This is a deeply soulful song, and when breathed into quickly becomes alive and vibrant.  By it’s very nature hopelessness, judgement and misunderstanding can be transformed into possibility, clarity and compassion within a few breath moments.  This is what happened for me this past week when I found within me judgement and misunderstanding.  These places within ourselves are particularly difficult to face, especially if we see ourselves as compassionate and aware most of the time.  But trust me…they are there.

A few months ago now I had an experience within the contact improv and free movement dance community that made me avoid a certain person and make a number of judgements about him that it turns out were not accurate nor compassionate by any means.  In the name of supposedly “protecting” myself an assumption was made.  These assumptions were based on projection and not on the truth of this particular person.  It was through another that I learned about some disabilities that could have kept this man from ever even trying to move and dance….but instead he was there and “dancing” seeking joy, pleasure,  and freedom just as all of us on the floor that night.

In the moment that I learned the truth about this person compassion and understanding came flying in.  In those breaths that held the clarity a deep change arrived within me.  I, like anyone else does from time to time, fell into the error of making judgements based on assumptions.  I was completely wrong about what I had judged.  Within a few breath moments everything changed and compassion came roaring in.

Wake up call?  By all means yes!  Our mind may create stories that are based on ours or others opinions, past experiences, or judgements, but where is the real truth?  The real truth lies in the moments of breath that it takes to be willing to open awareness , to suspend judgement, and to really listen and observe from a place of openness and expanded heart.

We all walk this life together even though we may seem to be separated by race, gender, religion, or nationality.  Many changes are sweeping our world and our planet at this time.  Shall we take the opportunity to suspend judgement and wait for the breath to inform us of the” change that is gonna come” within us.  That is where it begins and ends…




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A Silence That Is A Fountain of Action and Joy

“There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fountain of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out from unseen roots of all created being.”  Thomas Merton

Sometimes I ask myself the question, “What am I doing with this one wild and precious life?”  My mind rushes into the past and conjures up what I have done…pretty extraordinary, and ordinary, all at the same time…or it rushes into the future – into those precious few days that I have left of this lifetime.  And then, like the wild child that it is, mind comes to a complete halt stubbornly refusing to budge….and then realizes that this is the place that it was seeking all along and plops down to rest in the stillness of the moment.

The silence where all is born, the creative well of possibility which delivers the clarity that reveals the next action to be taken.   And at the same time complete and absolute peace, well being, and yes – joy.  There is a saying “if not now, when?”  Over and over we rush headlong into our days forgetting that all around us there is a continuous fountain flowing from unseen roots feeding us from source

There are many roots we can choose from in order to drink from this fountain.  The breath is one of these.  Opportunities to connect in intimacy abound. G. I. Gurdjieff in “Views From the Real World” says:

“Our mind is like a cabby who sits in a pub and drives passengers to different places in his dreams. Trying to work with the mind alone will lead nowhere. The power of changing oneself lies not in the mind but in the body and feelings.”

What if, as in my yoga class today, you chose to root yourself in the breath, the souls of the feet,  the openness of your heart, or any single point of focus and allow the sediment of your day to drift down to the bottom of your being and clear the way for the experience of now.  No pretense.  No defenses.  Simply sharing internal worlds from an open heart and willingness to connect intimately with yourself, others, nature….. the world.

How would your life be then?


Gratitude to Keith Kachtick of Dharma Yoga, Austin, TX for once again an extraordinary class!



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