Two important components of change are the releasing of something and the taking on of something else. Whether it is letting go of an old job to start a new one or simply changing your clothes, there are losses and gains to all change. The number of books written about how to reduce clutter and lose weight offer seems to offer evidence that taking in is the easier part of this equation. Letting go can be compromised by the fear that there will not be something there to replace or replenish what is released. It is interesting that the holding onto of one's breath is a universal response to fear.
Breath is a beautiful metaphor for how we live our lives. It is the flow of give and take, the accepting and releasing, that keeps us alive. We breath in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. We take in what we need and give out what is used up, what no longer serves us. And it is the releasing of the old breath that allows us to take in the new breath, just as the letting go of old beliefs and situations allows us to make room for new ones.
A study of people suffering from asthma noted that for many of the subjects the reason they could not get enough breath was that they never fully exhaled what was already in their lungs. This physical manifestation of conflict gives us a very concrete example of the internal struggle of letting go. Even when we recognize that the deeper we exhale the more room there is for taking in new, it can still be hard to let go of what we have.
When do we exhale most fully? Perhaps it is when we sigh in relief, when we release ourselves into sleep, when we surrender all we try to hold onto, when we recognize that something is over and we can relax now. Just as the tired six year old resists sleep with droopy eyelids, we often try to hold on longer than is in our best interest, even when we realize a phase has ended.
When you find yourself struggling with a desired change, take a few moments to observe your breath. Breathe in and breathe out. Notice the pause between the exhale and the inhale and take your time. Breath is a powerful link between conscious and unconscious as it is governed by both parts of the mind. Increasing our awareness of breath can help bring those two components into collaboration, often opening our minds to new possibilities and avenues for positive change.