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The Power of the Breath

I was spring skiing this week when I realized that the long, Utah trail I turned onto was the steepest trail I had ever attempted. You should know that I'm not a natural athlete. Oh. Snap.

(Full disclosure; the skier in the photo is not me!)

As I made turns on the challenging terrain, I felt my sensory input constrict. My chest got tight.

I started to cramp up, sweat, and a distinct feeling of unease came over me.

This was one long, steep trail.

I remembered the breathing pattern from my morning meditations.

Breathe in for three count.

Pause. Breathe out for count of five. Pause.


Breathe in for three count.

Pause. Breathe out for count of five. Pause.


After only two cycles, I could feel my vision and my chest expand as the rising panic was curtailed. The fear sweat left.

I established a rhythm.

I felt more grounded and skied the rest of the trail with increasing confidence and focus.

I remember even admiring the view and catching the scent of pine in the air as it rushed by.

It felt so good, we went back up and I did it again!

I am a nurse and a professional leadership coach.

I have studied the science of mindfulness and meditation and I practice both.

(There's a reason it's called a "practice". There's no perfection- just intentionally paying attention, again and again.)

Intellectually, I know mindful breathing can circumvent the flight or fight response.

To experience the power of mindful breathing in the moment, however, to feel the sudden, marked shift in my body and perceptions was transformative, empowering and validating.

Breathing, something that we do automatically, without thinking, when done intentionally, can make a significant difference to our ability to be present to our experience, to be effective, and to choose our response and not just habitually react.

The next time you are challenged, stressed, closed down, and reactive- remember the transformative power of the breath.

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