Don’t Take a Deep Breath

Most people who receive my newsletter care a lot about their health.  And typically we think of good health as being mostly about eating right and getting sufficient exercise. 

And while “shoulding” on ourselves for not exercising more is close to the universal self-judgment, we can go a lifetime without exercising– though it may be shorter and feel considerably less vital.

People obsess most about what food they’re eating, or shouldn’t be eating, but humans can go 30 days or more without food at all.

A more complete approach to healthfulness also includes sleep and hydration habits.  However–curiously, considering we can only go 10 days without sleep and 4 days without water—attention to proper hydration and sleep are typically farther down our good health priority list then diet and exercise.

Remarkably, most people put ZERO attention on the most important element of their health: oxygen. 

Humans can live for only 3-4 minutes without oxygen, yet very few people put conscious attention on their relationship with this most vital of all elements to life.

Lucas Roy Lehman

The typical resting breath pattern of a modern human is shallow and fairly rapid, with the inhalation primarily into the upper areas of the lungs.  Stress, anxiety, and depression only exacerbate this pattern, and while exercise is good for working the lungs, it takes conscious attention to breathe into the mid and lower lung areas to maximize lung capacity and oxygenation of the blood.

So, while the notion of pausing to take a deep breath is always a good idea to de-stress and bring yourself to greater presence, an even better idea would be to give a complete exhale first!  Because if you don’t fully exhale all the carbon dioxide from your lower lungs, there’s no room for you to really take a deep inhale of fresh oxygen.

Try this: Take a moment here to notice how you’re normally breathing.  Notice particularly how much exhale there is still left when you typically begin to inhale.  And now, on your next breath, exhale more, even more, maybe even squeezing your belly a little bit to get the last of the old breath out.  Maybe even pause for a second at the bottom of the outbreath.  Then slowly and evenly breathe into your lower belly before filling your upper lungs.  Now pause again for a moment at the top of the in-breath, noticing what it’s like to really feel the fullness of your lungs.

Do that three times and notice if maybe the light seems a little brighter, or your brain feels a little clearer, or your body feels a little more energized.

That’s oxygenation. 

So from now on, don’t ever take a deep breath…until you give a complete exhale first.

— Lucas

Is Anyone Else Feeling Like a Prisoner?

Back in April, when the pandemic and Shelter-in-Place was first upon us, a friend of mine said he felt like a prisoner.

Having spent eight years leading trainings in a maximum security prison, I reminded my friend—not without compassion for his frustration—that he still had the freedom to take a walk on the beach, order takeout from his favorite restaurant, and make love to his wife whenever he wanted.  Without too much smugness, I hope, I suggested that he could focus on what he didn’t have and couldn’t do (increasing his suffering) or he could focus his energy toward gratitude for all the freedom and abundance he did have.

Six months later, and after 7 weeks stuck inside because of all the smoke from California wildfires, I admit, I’m starting to feel like I’m a prisoner.  A prisoner of the Covid-19 pandemic; a prisoner of accelerating climate change and worsening wildfires; a prisoner of the toxic political atmosphere; and a prisoner of the hopelessness of my current perspective.

Here in Santa Cruz, living just outside the evacuation zone, I am grateful that my house didn’t burn down, and my heart aches for all my friends and acquaintances who were not so fortunate.  Lots of people have it much worse than I do, facing economic uncertainty, homelessness, and racial injustice on top of all that I’m struggling with.

Nevertheless, carrying my personal prisoner metaphor a little farther, I feel like I’ve got about 30 days until my parole hearing — AKA the election. And while I feel somewhat hopeful that things will go my way and I will be released in January, at the moment I feel powerless and afraid. 

Ironically, after writing that last line, the heaviness that paralyzed me for this entire day has mostly lifted.  (Clearly this speaks to the power of journal writing and coming present to create the conditions for transformation!)

And with that lighter perspective, I find myself contemplating a different metaphor, that of a monk in a monastery.  Like the monk, I am free to leave, but here I am, choosing to stay inside in my “cell” to avoid smoke, choosing to wear a mask when I go out in public, like a monk who chooses self-sacrifice for a purpose greater than himself.

The opportunity (dare I say, necessity?) in this crisis is to embrace my inner monk and commit even more fully to the cultivation of my connection to spirit, to my meditation and breath practices, to reaching out with love to my people however that remains possible, to cultivating my feelings of universal oneness in the face of separation and fear. 

This too shall pass.

Today, I invite you to watch my short video on how to expand your energy body to bring more possibility, joy and ease.