Breathing in the Present Moment in Your Thirties

Whenever anyone talks about being centered and in the present moment, they talk about noticing your breath. I find this disconcerting sometimes, and I recently realized that my inner 12 year old is sabotaging my efforts.

I was around 12 when my family and I were on a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Now, Hershey isn’t super far from New York City, but a lot of Pennsylvania is the opposite of NYC, filled with farmland and fields. While driving to Hershey, I remember noticing how spaced out the houses were from one another and how many cornfields there were instead of houses. So. Much. Nature.

When we arrived, I remember how the air quality was different than in New York City- how it was cleaner, something we city dwellers aren’t used to. We all remarked on this “different air.” All of a sudden, after mulling this air quality thought over for a few minutes, I found it hard to breathe. When I focused on my breath, my awareness shifted to the laboriousness of breathing in and out. “It’s so much harder to breathe when you think about it than when you don’t,” I pondered. I secretly worried I was going to have an asthma attack (I don’t have asthma), or a heart attack (hopefully clean air wouldn’t give me a heart attack.) I didn’t know what to do.

Now, if you know me, you may know that I’m extremely sensitive to talk about medical conditions. I could never be a healthcare professional because hearing about what ails people makes me ill. It kind of sounds funny, but I wish I was joking. Nausea races through my body and the potential of fainting is near when I’m told about the details of someone’s insulin pump or what’s really happening when bruising starts. Conversations about surgeries or bones peeking through skin from open wounds will hasten the likelihood of me sinking into unconsciousness.

So I guess it’s no surprise that thoughts about not being able to breathe correctly, even at 12, sent panic attacks (not real ones, thankfully) through my mind and lack of breath filled up my senses.

I ended up calming myself down by shifting my thoughts AWAY from my breath. I made a conscious effort from then on to NOT to think about breathing. So when I trace back a strange dislike of concentrating on my breath, I come back to very early moments.

Luckily, consciously thinking about my breath no longer makes me feel ill or panicky. I’m just aware of how strange and new it is to WANT to concentrate on breathing. I’m able to be aware of my breath now, with my blockage from childhood fading away every day, because I’m aware that this was a choice I made once that doesn’t work for me now.

Imagine how many strange dislikes we have now that come from very early choices. Question where your ideas and preferences come from. Some choices may have been important at the time, but do they actually serve you anymore? Or do they hold you back?

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The Feeling of Being In Your Body In Your Thirties

Maybe it’s the meditation. I’ve been practicing for almost two years now so perhaps changes are happening that I don’t even realize. But sometimes, suddenly, in the middle of the day, or late at night, I’m suddenly very aware of the way I’m holding my stomach. My breathe is so shallow it barely reaches below my shoulders, and I’m walking around with an extreme amount of tension. And sometimes, suddenly, I let it all out. Do you ever feel like that?

Do you ever feel, suddenly, amazed to be in your body? I feel like this especially after recovering from being ill or from being hurt in some way- that’s the easiest time to feel it. If you’ve ever had a headache for forever, you might know the grateful feeling after the pain is gone. If you’ve twisted an ankle, or injured your knee, the sudden happiness that comes over you when you start to walk and feel better can be akin to nirvana.

But sometimes I feel this way randomly, without warning. I feel the walls of my apartment- bumpy on my fingertips, the wood floor underneath my feet-cold and indented.  Sometimes when I’m outside I feel a nervous pang as I let my stomach go, realizing I’ve been holding it in for awhile. And then I feel my breathe rush deeply into my entire ribcage.

It’s kind of fascinating and strangely new to feel my body, even though it’s always been there. I’ve already had 32 years with my warm shoulders, my darting eyes, my bony feet. Yet it’s taken this long to scratch the surface of unfurling my numb senses and letting myself be.

Does any of this sound familiar to you guys? Do you also feel you’ve just scratched the surface of “being aware of what your body feels like” or does that not sound familiar? Are these sensations important to you? Have you been working on becoming aware of how you feel in the moment? It’s one of those things that was never a priority for me before, so I’m wondering how others feel about it. Do you feel like awareness is something that’s come to the surface more in your thirties? I definitely do…I wonder if it’s because in our twenties we’re way more consumed outward appearances to others and not nearly as concerned with how we feel within ourselves…

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