Consciousness is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot without much thought given to what it actually means. Quite simply and for our purposes, consciousness is the quality or state of your awareness—awareness of yourself and your environment.
With that said, if you want to change your life, you must raise your awareness, or consciousness. Awareness is a requirement for growth. Period.
Without awareness of all aspects of your life, and awareness of yourself, you are zombie-like, moving through life on autopilot. The really sad thing is that you don’t even realize it.
The good news is that raising your consciousness is easier than you think. In fact, the single most powerful tool for raising your consciousness is always available to you and won’t cost you a dime. The only thing you need to do is choose it. What is it?
Breathing on purpose and with purpose is the most powerful tool you have at your disposal. It is available right now to support you to live an empowered, incredible life. I love breathing on purpose so much I tattooed the word breathe on myself.
What makes breathing so unquestioningly powerful?
When you change the rate, depth, and pattern of your breathing, you send new signals to your brain. You interrupt your nervous system; you interrupt yourself. In that moment, you have created the space to choose what you would like to do next.
When you were born into the world as this totally awesome baby, you had a deep, slow, steady pattern of breath. As you grew up and life happened, your breathing became more shallow, erratic, and rapid. It happens to all of us.
And right about now, you just became aware of your breathing. Perhaps you took a deep breath or yawned. As a direct result of that, you will feel a bit calmer, a bit more aware. See, it’s magic! Not really, it’s science, but it’s magic science!
You might start to notice that you breathe erratically, or in some moments, not at all. You know what I’m talking about. When something goes wrong and you actually hold your breath. When you get physically hurt, or when you are waiting for important news, you stop breathing. Or conversely, when you get nervous, your breathing might speed up. Now that I’ve brought this to your attention, you will start to become aware of it.
Breathing on purpose helps bring about a profound level of awareness because you are slowing yourself down. You are literally interrupting yourself by interrupting your nervous system and sending new signals to your amygdala.
What the hell is an amygdala? Great question.
The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped section of your primitive brain that is responsible for your emotions, memory, and survival instincts—the flight, flight, or freeze response that occurs when you’re experiencing stress, a threat, or fear.
These new signals that you’ve sent to your brain, thanks to breathing on purpose, support the amygdala in calming down, slowing down, and creating some space from the stimuli it was experiencing. This is where the magic begins.
It is that moment, when you intentionally slow down, that you are able to connect with yourself, raise your consciousness, and make a choice.
When we pause and breathe on purpose, we have the experience of presence. The power of awareness. We connect with the wisdom and goodness of our souls. In the calm, we gain clarity. We drop out of our heads and into our hearts. We slow down. We see with new eyes and hear with new ears. We become aware of our own motives. We see our own truths and desires. We place ourselves in the seat of choice.
Breathing on purpose, breathing consciously, is life changing. You can practice it as a part of a daily ritual or intermittently throughout your day. Or both.
Breathing on purpose is an essential tool for habit change.
Let’s say you’ve made a new decision to follow healthy eating habits. When you notice yourself feeling the compulsion to eat something unhealthy, pause and choose to breathe on purpose. You’ll interrupt the behavior and create the space you need to move away from compulsion and into conscious choice.
Perhaps you’ve made a decision to be calm and not go straight to losing your shit with your kids. When you notice yourself feeling heated, pause, and choose to breathe on purpose. You’ll interrupt yourself and create the space for a new choice.
Becoming aware of your breathing will slow you down. In doing so, you will increase your awareness of yourself, your thoughts, your attitudes, and your behaviors.
The above is adapted from Worthy Human: Because You Are the Problem… and the Solution. For more advice on breathing and stepping into a stress-free life, visit http://www.thelittfactor.com/.