Medium 9781576756300

Three Deep Breaths

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These days all of us lead hectic, stressful lives. And most of us react to difficult circumstances by struggling against them, which only creates more tension. Three Deep Breaths provides a welcome alternative--a simple technique that you can use, no matter how busy you are, to transform tough situations into positive, energizing experiences. It is a mind/body technique that combines the "cognitive-restructuring" capability of the brain (the ability to change our attitudes and perceptions of the world) with the calmness and presence of an aligned, centered state of being.

Thomas Crum illustrates this radically simple technique through the story of Angus, who is struggling to break through the negative habits that lead to anger, exhaustion, and poor performance. We follow Angus as he learns to use the Three Deep Breaths to maintain clarity and purpose in the midst of seeming chaos, to redirect negative energy to more positive purposes. By working with our breath, by being aware of it and using it as a focusing tool, we can open up a whole new world of possibility.

The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts but on how we respond to them. All it takes to change your life is Three Deep Breaths--which you can do in an instant, anywhere, at any time.

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11 Chapters

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The Wrinkle

ePub

He probably never would have looked at his reflection at all, if it hadn’t been for something his daughter said. He would have done what he usually did—go downstairs, get on his computer, and wrestle with deadlines and dilemmas. But tonight, while he was tucking her into bed, Angus noticed Sierra looking at him intently.

“Why do you have that big line on your face, Daddy?”

“What big line?”

“This big line here,” she said, tracing with her finger a line on his brow that extended down between his eyes.

“I guess it’s from worrying too much,” was Angus’s truthful reply.

“What are you going to do?” his daughter persisted.

“I’m not sure.”

He kissed her good night and reached to turn off the light.

“When I’m not sure of something I just ask my teacher.”

“That’s a good idea, Sierra. Now, go to sleep,” he said, closing her bedroom door.

“And my teacher says the answers are always there, Daddy,” he heard her call out. “You just have to look for them.”

That was when he caught his reflection in the hallway mirror.

 

The Lift

ePub

Angus had a fitful night to match his day, this time fretting over his upcoming meeting with Harold, his boss. His conversation with his colleague Robert that morning confirmed a rumor he’d heard that his job as project manager for the new marketing plan was being questioned. Not just by his team, but by his boss. He had obsessed until he dozed off at 4:10 a.m., only to be jarred to attention by his daughter’s alarm clock, which he had borrowed to replace the one he had broken the previous morning. The Disney tune was on full volume: “Zippity-do-dah, zippity ay.”

No, this is not a “wonderful day”!

Fumbling unsuccessfully for the switch, he yanked the plug.

Angus rubbed his eyes and felt his tired body. He staggered to the shower and was drenched by a torrential downpour of warm water and cold thoughts. He stood aimlessly in the shower for who knows how long. It occurred to him that he was staring at his conditioner in his left hand, and couldn’t remember whether he had shampooed or not. In his next fleeting glimpse of consciousness, he caught himself staring into the mirror holding his toothbrush but unclear as to whether or not he had brushed his teeth. Only the mint taste in his mouth gave him some confidence.

 

The First Breath

ePub

Hanford Park was unusually empty on this crisp fall morning. They left the car and Angus followed the old man to a little opening among some aspen trees, adjacent to a pond where ducks happily paddled about before they headed south for the winter.

“I am a small, elderly man, wouldn’t you say?”

Before Angus could answer, the old man continued, “And you’re a big strong guy. I want you to lift me up off the ground.”

Now what have I gotten into? worried Angus, checking around anxiously to see if there were any observers.

“Use your legs so you don’t hurt yourself and lift me up.”

Angus glanced at his watch. What possessed me to listen to this guy?

Angus was a good six inches taller and seventy pounds heavier than the old man. He put his hands under the old man’s arms and easily lifted him a foot off the ground.

“Thank you. Now place me back down.”

Angus did as he was instructed, wondering about the sanity of the little man.

“I was right. You’re very strong! Now I’m not going to change anything physically, and I don’t want you to change how you lift. Simply pick me up again.”

 

Centering

ePub

The old man could have been Angus’s grandfather, yet he moved smoothly, catlike.

Angus climbed into the passenger seat of the Chevy. “This is fascinating, this centering thing,” he said. “But the truth is that I have no time to practice it.” He had already begun to worry about work and his busy life.

“Centering does not take time—it takes intention,” responded the old man. “In fact, when you are calm and more present, you will save time. You don’t need time to be happy.”

“Maybe I’ll do it during lunch break,” replied Angus.

“Great, but why not right now?” the old man suggested. “You could start by fastening your—”

“My centering belt?” Angus interrupted with a grin.

“That’s right,” chuckled the old man. “That belt, even that click you hear when you fasten it, can be a wake-up call to get centered. You don’t have to wait till ‘later.’ And notice, the belt fits right over your centering area.”

Angus hooked up the seat belt and, in spite of himself, he found himself taking some deep centering breaths.

 

A Master Teacher in Disguise

ePub

Angus settled into his office. His unfamiliar sense of lightness and ease was soon fogged by concern over his meeting regarding his project team, of which he was head. He realized that he needed to reestablish his credibility when he met with Harold today. His performance and his attitude were being scrutinized. And today he could understand why. He recognized an unproductive pattern in himself. He often was uncentered, full of anger and blaming. The truth was that he did doubt himself. And the more he doubted, the more he had to justify.

His thoughts returned to the morning’s strange events. What if he tried the “centering” that the old man had showed him? Maybe it could help him relax a little. He settled into his chair and closed his eyes. At first it felt a little contrived and analytical. But after several breaths, he felt his anxiety relaxing. After a few more breaths Angus noticed that he was able to detach himself from his analysis and simply witness his thought process. There were “the thoughts,” and then there was “the person who was thinking those thoughts,” the observer, who could simply watch without getting attached or reactive. Angus realized that, rather than getting plugged in to his thoughts, he could be watching a play, one in which he was the director and actor at the same time. If he wanted to, he could cut and do a retake, choosing an entirely different role for himself.

 

The Second Breath

ePub

“Could you tell me more about this breathing?” Angus asked Daisy. “What do you mean by breathing this strong loving ‘Mama’ in?”

Daisy turned her attention from the flowing stream to Angus.

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. All I know is that every day I breathe in the ‘me I want to be’ and Daisy here still keeps growin’! My daughter graduated high school and is now enrolled in City College. I guess anything is possible!”

Angus took a deep Centering Breath. It was possible for Daisy to be the best ‘me’ she could be. She had turned that possibility into reality. It came from consciously breathing it in. Breathing! The second breath! The Possibility Breath! Breathe in the highest possible me!

It sounded wonderful, but he was unclear as to how to do it.

“What do you mean, breathing it into every cell?” asked Angus. “Do you mean just really believe and hope that you’re that person?”

“It’s not just a strong belief or hope. That’s just left up here.” Daisy lightly touched her head. “When you breathe it into your mind and body, you become it, you know it. Heck, you are it.”

 

Possibility

ePub

Angus reentered his office with determination. He sat at his computer, recalled the day’s learnings, and created a new screen saver for his computer:

The Centering Breath
Breathe in the present moment,
with balance and energy


The Possibility Breath
Breathe in the “me I want to be”
with power and purpose


Then he printed out a smaller copy—for the dashboard of his car.

One pinned to the inside of my brain would be nice, too, he thought.

Angus approached Harold’s office. Previously, whenever Angus had gone to see Harold he had been nervous, the kind of nervous that comes when you see a police car in your rearview mirror—you haven’t done anything wrong, yet you’re expecting flashing lights.

As he walked down the corridor, he focused on Harold’s door. The doorknob was going to be his new “centering cue,” he decided. He took a Centering Breath, a deep inhale, aligning his posture and taking in awareness, and then a long exhale, releasing tension and being present. Then he took a Possibility Breath, accessing his highest level of self —the “me” he wanted to be, without all his stories and excuses. He filled every cell in his being with the essence of a true team player, ready to do his part one hundred percent and to be the leader that he knew he could be.

 

The Third Breath

ePub

“Thanks for fixing the tires,” Angus called out as he pulled out of his service station and headed for home. The surprise autumn snow had started to fall an hour before and it was coming down heavily now.

The mechanic watched him drive away. “I think that’s the first time I’ve seen that guy without a frown. He actually talked to us!”

At the first centering light, Angus stared at the “Deep Breaths” card that he had taped to the dashboard. He took a deep Centering Breath. He felt a calmness surround him. Usually blizzard conditions like these would have made him tense and anxious. He let his awareness be open to “seeing” beyond his preoccupations. He just started observing the present moment, just as the old man had suggested. He was soon fascinated by the different shapes of the snowflakes as they hit the windshield. He noticed the patterns the wind made with the falling snow in the headlights. He listened to the sound of his tires driving through the snow, and the rhythm of the wipers.

At another stoplight, he glanced at himself in the rearview mirror. His attention went right to the “worry” wrinkle that Sierra had pointed out. Was it his imagination, or was his brow somewhat less furrowed than usual? He scanned his face and noticed that he naturally had a half-smile on his lips. It kind of took him by surprise. He deliberately frowned, and noticed how his eyes squinched together and the deep furrow returned. Then he breathed a deep breath, and smiled, and the furrow softened even more.

 

The Mystery

ePub

Angus turned the car onto his home street. He drove slowly, trying to actually be present in his neighborhood rather than rushing through it. The heavy snow made the lights in the homes glow with a feeling of safety and warmth.

His eyes caught sight of the sign he had driven by every day for years:

SLOW: CHILDREN PLAYING

“There might be some wisdom in that for me!” chuckled Angus to himself.

He pulled into the driveway, and took a long look at his home. He took the first breath, the Centering Breath, and felt gratitude for his family. He took in the second breath, the Possibility Breath, and simply asked, “Let the highest level of me as parent and spouse show up.” Then he took out a pen and added the third breath to the card on the dashboard.

When he opened the door, Carly rushed past him to leave.

“Sierra’s eaten. She’s doing homework. I’ll be back around ten.”

Angus remembered that this was Carly’s weekly yoga class and dinner-with-the-girls night.

“See you then. Have fun.”

He watched her as she hurried out. He wanted to say much more, but he knew it wasn’t the right time.

 

The Journal

ePub

After he tucked Sierra in, Angus sat at his desk staring at the computer. He had a pile of e-mails, but they could wait. This day was too important to put on the back burner. He created for himself a new screen saver:

Three Deep Breaths

The Centering Breath
Breathe in the present moment,
with balance and energy


The Possibility Breath
Breathe in the “me I want to be”
with power and purpose


The Discovery Breath
Breathe in the Mystery,
let go of judgment


Angus looked at the Three Deep Breaths for quite some time. More than anything, he wanted to share this with Carly. But how could he possibly explain the significance of this day to her in a way she could understand? They hadn’t had an intimate conversation in months. Explaining it to Carly felt far more difficult than sharing it with Sierra, or even with his project team. He reread the words on the screen. What would keep them from appearing trite—just a bunch of words—to Carly? How could he explain that, to him, they represented so much more: a daily practice that could—and already had started to—change his life.

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

ePub

Angus opened one eye slightly, so he would appear to still be asleep. He watched his daughter twirling and leaping beside his bed, singing and performing a “wake-up” dance. Last night she had promised him that, instead of an alarm clock, she would be his “wake-up fairy” and awaken him to a magical day.

He felt Carly’s hand gently nudging him, making sure he wasn’t missing a moment. He wasn’t. Angus’s joy in this moment was almost overwhelming, but he held it back so that he could prolong the show.

Softly, Sierra danced high on her toes, in her little pink nightgown, chanting as she made her way in circles around the room.

“Wake up! It’s a magic day! Wake up! Get up and play!”

Angus feigned a big slow yawn, as good as any Rip Van Winkle. With a shout, Sierra leaped onto the bed and waved her pretend wand over her dad. At just the right moment, Angus growled to life and, just like a giant grizzly bear, he grabbed Sierra and then Carly, too. His girls squealed with delight, just as he knew they would.

 

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