"Three deep breaths are magical."
—Caren Knox

When people hear "stop and smell the roses" they think of thorns, and ownership, and the cost of the roses, and whether they require more water than xeriscaping would.

That's why deep breathing helps. It makes brains slow down.

Although it's usually dolled up as formal meditation or chanting or yoga (which has other benefits, certainly, but for my current argument, the breathing...)... what it immediately does is slow the heart which stills the brain. And then thoughts can step gently and slowly around, instead of trying to jump on the speeding train of brains going the speed of people who are thinking of cost and future and past and promotion and danger and they're breathing fast, fast, fast.
And shallow, shallow, shallow.

Deep breaths change everything, for a few moments.

I would like to credit this image when I can. It came from imgur.

Shallow breathing maintains a state. If you're angry or afraid and you breathe shallowly, you stay that way.

If you're calm (as in a meditative state) then breathing shallowly maintains it, once you've gotten there.

I have something of a monster antidote: breathing. Breathe deeply and calmly. Get oxygen into that part of you that fears the tiny monsters. Once you master calming your hurts and fears (or at least calming the adrenaline that would make you lash out), you'll have time to think about how to deal with them rationally and sweetly and compassionately.

—Sandra Dodd
in "Tiny Monsters"
read more

From Richard Carlson:
Breathe Before You Speak

This simple strategy has had remarkable results for virtually everyone I know who has tried it. The almost immediate results include increased patience, added perspective, and, as a side benefit, more gratitude and respect from others.

The strategy itself is remarkably simple. It involves nothing more than pausing—breathing—after the person to whom you are speaking is finished. At first, the time gap between your voices may seem like an eternity—but in reality, it amounts to only a fraction of a second of actual time. You will get used to the power and beauty of breathing, and you will come to appreciate it as well. It will bring you closer to, and earn you more respect from, virtually everyone you come in contact with. You'll find that being listened to is one of the rarest and most treasured gifts you can offer. All it takes is intention and practice.

Richard Carlson
in Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...

Schuyler Waynforth, on Always Learning (part of this):

Two days ago I got irritated at David. And I raged at him for about 1/2 second and I stopped. I breathed and I apologized and it was gone. There is no way that I could have done that when Simon and Linnaea were little, not because of them, but because I hadn't taken the small steps to get from where I was to where I am.

Amy Doggett, on UnschoolingDiscussion, April 10, 2007:

As for things like waiting in line or being stuck in traffic, I don't look at it as wasted time. I look at it as opportunity: What can I do with this time? I always have a book with me for that reason. Or I use that time to focus on my breath—bring myself to the present moment. It's all how you look at it.

Leah Rose responding to Glenda on Always Learning, July 2010:
When you notice you're starting to feel anxious, stop right then and take a couple deep breaths and purposely shift your perspective. If that's not your usual way of being, it *will* take thought and effort. But it *does* come easier the longer you do it.     —Glenda

I had an amazing experience with just this kind of thing last night. At bedtime (which is about midnight in our family) I had just tucked in and said goodnight to our two youngest (8 and 11 yo boys) and was climbing into my own bed when I heard one of them calling me. My knee-jerk reaction was a blast of annoyance—very typical of me in that situation, exacerbated by the fact that I'd felt crummy all day and was really looking forward to collapsing into bed.

I huffed out an angry breath, started to head back to their room and suddenly had a thought from something I'd read here recently (or maybe on Sandra's website or the RU Network): "First, breathe and center yourself." So I took a deep breath, and as I inhaled I felt my whole being kind of slide into place—it was weird, almost a tangible sensation—and suddenly I felt completely peaceful. I walked into their room with a smile on my face and asked if either of them had called me. It was ds 11, he wanted me to set up his extra pillow (which was on the floor leaning against his bed) behind him so he could sit up and read for a bit.

Normally in this circumstance I'd have walked into the room annoyed and impatient and would have responded to this request by going on a rant about why he couldn't just reach down and pick it up himself, why he had to call me all the way back into his room for that, how tired and crummy I was feeling and there is no reason why I have to be the one to do it since he's perfectly capable himself! (You get the picture.)

Last night I just said, "Sure!" and set his pillows up behind him and gave them both another kiss goodnight and then went to bed feeling exhausted but very peaceful—and very thankful for my networks of unschoolers, from whom I'm learning the precious principle of abundance.

~Leah Rose

Pam Sorooshian, on Always Learning:

There are times in life that you won't feel like you can take care of others around you as well as you'd like. You need nurturing yourself and other people's neediness starts to be draining on you.

I've felt that, too.

But I've also found that if I focus more on "seeing" my kids with loving-eyes focus, consciously choose to pay attention to what I love about them, then I actually begin to feel more nourished and strengthened by them, and by the very acts of caring for them.

Partly what is so draining is that your mind is on other things while your kids want your attentiveness on them. So you feel pulled and that is stressful. If you can, try to stop thinking about the other stuff and focus on the little details of what you're doing at the moment. If your child wants pasta at midnight (just happened here), then you go put the water in the pot and put it on the stove. While you're doing that, concentrate on feeling the coldness of the water, the heaviness of the pot as it fills with water. Hear the sound of the water running.

It is late and I'm not being as articulate as I'd like—but what I'm saying is to practice being totally "in the moment" by noticing every sensation—sound, touch, smell, etc. Especially do this in regard to your children—touch them, smell them, listen to the sound of their voices, and so on.

Even if you only manage to get into this heightened state of mind for a minute or two at a time, do it as often as you think of it throughout your day. Each minute will be refreshing—it is a form of meditation that you can do while you're going about your daily activities.


When a mom asked how to meditate, several responded, but Caren Knox wrote something wonderful:

I've done it different ways, at different times of my life. Mostly, as described - sitting, focusing on the breath, noticing thoughts, not getting carried away by them. And if I get carried away, when I "return", calmly return my focus to the breath, without letting thoughts of "Oh, no! I got carried away!" carry me away again. The "depth" of my meditation is different now than it was 30 years ago. I've gained things through time & experience, and made the mistake of thinking I should have had those things before time & experience allowed me to. The books "Journey of Awakening" by Ram Dass, and "Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn were particularly helpful, as well as the work of Cheri Huber & Tara Brach ("Radical Acceptance" helped my unschooling). I'm now wanting to list every book I've read, teacher, retreat leader & insightful moment I've experienced, but I'll refrain from doing so.

Finding groups & teachers was hugely helpful to me at various times.

When the boys were younger, I'd sit when I could, but I noticed that thoughts of "needing" to meditate were pulling me away from the moment *with them*. So I'd get centered in that moment, breathing (3 deep breaths is magical), noticing sounds, smells, where my body was. Momentary, but being able to be in the moment changed & flavored the next moment, and shifted it toward peace.

I also made the mistake of believing my meditation & practice should be like that of those teachers, yogis, & retreat leaders. Then I came across the concept of "householder yoga", which is different than "monk yoga". I came to allow mothering to be my practice, which benefited both my kids & my meditation. I realized expecting my practice to be like that of someone who sat in a cave for 30 days, or sat with a teacher for hours every day, wasn't beneficial; whatever brings me fully to this moment is.

—Caren Knox
May 1, 2014
on someone else's facebook page
More by Caren and others, on meditation for unschooling parents

Schuyler Waynforth, on Always Learning (it comes back around to breathing again near the end):

When we lived in Japan we had neighbors who did meditation. I got really frustrated and hit my three year old Simon one day. He told everybody. I was ashamed of myself and proud of him for telling people. I didn't want him to hide my abuse. Ward, one of the neighbors, sat with me and talked me through a 10 second meditation technique, it was just a way to calm myself down. And 10 seconds was about how long I had most of the time with an almost 1 year old and a moving toward 4 year old. It gave me space in the times that I remembered to use it. /breathing has similar ideas. Breathing long enough, taking the 2 seconds it can take to refocus on the good things, the more that I did that, the less I felt like I was in need of my own space.

When my back needed stretching and Simon and Linnaea were little enough, I would put them on my legs and stretch, using their weight as a counter balance. Quickly googling I found this exercise dvd: momandtotfitness.com/, there's a downloadable sample. Now, neither Simon nor Linnaea would have been that interested in doing the activity more than a few times, but it might help you to see other ways to get your exercise. I liked that the kids were distracting and distracted in the clip. So, even with editing and all they couldn't manage to show a young child happily accommodating their mother's need.

One of the things that really helped me was to let go of plans. Not that it was an easy thing. So, if I thought I was going to do the dishes, being willing to walk away from that at Simon's or Linnaea's behest made me less frustrated. I remember reading in Dr. Spock that anything you do with a toddler you should expect it to take more than twice as long, more than three times as long. I suppose you should expect it to take as long as it takes. Can you get groceries delivered? Can you eat before going grocery shopping? Can you quickly buy something to eat and then do the grocery shopping? Can you go shopping with S? Can your husband do the shopping? Can you see the grocery run as a giant exploration opportunity with lots of ambling and exploring and pauses and rushes?

I think it is fantastic what you are doing. Standing with your son, wandering into the laundromat, listening to his ciao, ciao, letting him play with the floss, those are fantastic connections. Sometimes it is so hard to be so accomodating of another person. I can tell you, though, that not being so accomodating isn't any easier. I can tell you that not taking the breath, not coming up with the ways to see the joy through his eyes, but to see him as a tyrant, that route leads to your and his unhappiness. I've also found the the more willing I am to help Simon and Linnaea to do what they want to do, the less needy they are. And, conversely, the more joyfully I spend time with them, helping them out, the less needy I am of my own space, my time to myself.


Quietly Better

The fewer things you say or do to make things worse, the better things will be.

photo by Marty Dodd

Calm Peace Abundance Gratitude

Lori Odhner wrote a short piece called Flooding, March 21, 2011; springtime.

This is a quote from the middle, but reading the whole thing would be better.

[John] Gottman tried to create this in his research. He asked couples to start a discussion about a volatile subject while he videotaped them. In a few minutes their heart rates went up. They were shouting, which is not homogeneous with listening. Then he told them that there was a problem with the equipment, and to sit tight while he fixed it. This was not true. Yet it gave the couple a few minutes for the flooded feelings to subside. Then he told them that the problem was resolved and to resume fighting. But they were calmer, and they were able to speak as well as listen.

From "Yoga for the Mind" (an e-mail sent out in April 2011; link below)

Yoga Tips for Work

Once every hour take five minutes and consciously focus on slowing down your breath rate, ideally to just 5 breaths a minute.Using this rate of breathing is known to reduce stress and boost the nervous system. It should help you to maintain calm and keep an even mind.

Practice some chair yoga

A centering and side opening practice

Sit with your spine straight and feet firmly planted on the floor. As you breath in, take both arms out to your side and all the way over your head. Interlock your fingers and as you exhale reach your arms up to the sky. Now, as you exhale take a stretch all the way over to your left side. Inhale, take your arms all the way back to the centre and on the next exhale, take your arms over to the right side. On the next inhale, take your arms all the way back up above your head. On the next exhale place your palms together above your head and draw them all the way back down in front of your heart to a prayer position. You can repeat this 3 times.
Seated twist
Bring your left hand on to your right knee. As you inhale, lengthen your spine and lift your heart, and as you exhale begin to turn your torso and then your head to look over your right shoulder making sure your buttocks stay firmly planted on your chair. Lengthen your tailbone to keep the lower back long. Stay here for 30 seconds to a minute. Don't forget to breath and with each exhalation you may be able to twist around a little further. Released the post on an exhalation retuning back to your starting position. Now repeat on the left for the same length of time.
Seated cat cow
Ensure that you are sitting with a long spine as you bring your hands on to your knees. Inhale as you lift the heart to the sky, exhale as you roll your shoulders forwards, curving the spine and stretching between the shoulder blades. Repeat this 10 times using the inhale to come forward and the exhale to come back . When you are ready, come back to your sitting position. Close your eyes for a moment. Notice how you feel.
Seated forward bend
Inhale as you sit up tall on your chair, with your feel firmly planted on the ground. Inhale as you lift your arms up above your head alongside your ears. take your shoulders down and back. Feel yourself lifted on the inside. As you exhale, keeping your head, neck and spine in a straight line, fold forward from the hips bringing your head down towards your knees. Relax your neck and shoulders, allowing your head and arms to hang towards the floor. When you are ready to come back up, press your feet into the floor and your sitting bones into the chair. Inhale as you draw your arms alongside your ears, reaching the arms and torso forward and up retuning to sitting up straight in your chair. Exhale draw your hands back to your heart...and smile...
When you get stressed at work place your hands on the back of the seat of your chair and focus bringing your breath into your belly. Begin to count to four, elongate your exhale counting to 8. Practice for 5-10 minutes.
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Spirituality Mindful Parenting Parenting Peacefully

Edited transcript of an online chat on breathing from March 8, 2010.