Counting Breaths

Counting Breaths
That moment had finally come. My mother was at the 11th hour as  her long journey with Alzheimers took a turn for the worse. Hospice was called in and they prepared my mother for her journey home. They prepared us too for what was to come. In tears, I asked, ”how long, how long does she have?’’ The caregiver from hospice softly replied, ”at this point, we no longer measure TIME in weeks, days or even hours, we measure TIME in breaths.” I knew that my mother’s time on this planet had come to an end and finally, she could rest in peace. 
As I went to sleep that night, holding my mother close to my heart, I reflected on the words of the caregiver, ”we measure TIME in breaths.” If we honestly looked at our lives and the ways in which we lived, we would see that our lives are so often measured by the big events that fill our time on this earth- from birth to our first steps, to our first day of school, to graduation, to securing our dream job, to marriage, to the birth of our children, to their first steps, etc. Our chronological timeline is made up of one headliner followed by another until our last breath. 
What about all those in-between moments, the forgotten moments that are so equally important because they too are filled with life?  Our in-between moments are the stepping stones that guide us to our headliners and give us the encouragement and respite to move forwards.
If we could measure our lifetime by each breath or each step we took we would become steeped in what we call conscious living, living moment to moment. Within, there is time for time to reveal itself and for us to slow way down and experience the epic ness of now. Do we need to wait for death to knock at our door or the door of a loved one before we can start measuring  our time in breaths? Do we need a pandemic to slow us to a snail pace before we fully understand and accept the fragility and finiteness of life?
Time for TimeTIME being of essence. We know this but quickly forget. We try to bend time, buy time and in doing so we waste time. So much of our time is unwisely invested in frenzy, in doing a lot of nothingness, in worry and in fear, holding on to the past and planning the unknown future. Time wasted trying to get ahead of what and of who? We don’t know because we haven’t stopped and taken the time to ask ourselves these questions. Instead, we fast forward to the next big goal oriented headliner whilst holding our breath.
The great sages believed that our days are numbered by the number of our breaths. This equates to slow conscious breathing that allows us to optimise our vital energy, called prana. When we slow our breath down our mental activity slows down as well creating space between your thoughts, especially the ones that are constantly looping. This space gives way to awareness and awareness gives way to presence in the now. Being in the now we hear our breath, witness the rise and fall of our belly, experience the simple art of breathing as an all-encompassing moment connecting us to what is present and what is essential.
In this time of great uncertainly where time has miraculously been gifted once again, we can choose to use it wisely. For some, having extra time can create anxiety and an uncomfortable feeling of void or emptiness; even overwhelm if you were once running after time. These feelings may give way to the urgent desire to clutter the space and fill our time with random activities and reactive thoughts.
Be kind to yourself. This is a new out-of-your-comfort-zone reality. Notice with kindness, without judgement, any need to fill your time, fill your space within and without. Ask with gentleness and compassion, ”what are you naturally or habitually inclined to use to occupy your time and fill your space?” May it be TV, food, alcohol social media, reading, sleeping, working out or judgmental thoughts, invite their full expression without criticism, offer them your full attention and greet them with openness and curiosity. This instrumental insight can be your path to awareness and conscious transformation. From seeing the truth,   you thereafter have the choice to shift, even just small incremental steps towards freedom. Can you bear witness to the sensation of endless time even if for just a few breaths before the urge to fill it? Let’s try.Moving towards a shift. Take a seat. Make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes, allowing the upper lids to gently rest on the lower lids. Soften your jaw. Allow the legs and the hips to relax towards the earth, creating a sense of stability and presence. Draw your awareness to the base of your spine and from this point follow with your minds eye along the length of your spine. Notice the space that is already present, space between each vertebra. 
Now, witness the space between the hips and the base ribs, now between each rib. Feel what that feels like. Feel the space between  the shoulders, between the collar bones and from your shoulders to your ears. Notice the space between your temples, the space between your lips. Feel that space. Now, experience the spaciousness from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. Space… space… space…Allow yourself to be bathed in this space, your space.
Now, draw your awareness to the space between your upper lip and your nostrils. Witness your natural breath as it moves in and out, effortlessly, cool breath moving in, warm breath moving out. The space between your inhale and your exhale, just notice spaciousness. Continue to witness the natural flow of your breath as it caresses the inside of your nostrils and breathes you. Feel the breath. Feel the space.
When you are ready, move your awareness to the space between your thoughts, thoughts come and thoughts go and there is space between each. Maybe a nano second but there is space. Nothing to force, nothing to do, just continue to breath and witness, coming back to breath then to thought and then back to breath. Breath extends, the space between each breath too. Time slowly unfolds. Practice regularly,  capturing each breath, capturing each moment so that time will be on your side.