Growing up in Southern California, I had the wonderful experience of swimming in the ocean often. I love swimming in the ocean. Vast and unpredictable, the ocean is full of tides whose pull I feel even when I don’t fully comprehend them. As a kid, I especially loved swimming out just beyond where the waves crest and crash to the shore to enjoy the lull of the rocking motion of the tides. I’d enjoy that lull so much, I’d often find I’d drifted far away from my family’s home base on the beach. When that happened, I’d remember what my father taught me: Don’t exhaust yourself swimming against the current. Just follow the natural rhythm of the waves in and let them bring you back to shore.
Similarly, in the midst of a stressful day, the same trick for navigating my way back to shore helps me navigate my way from stress to a more grounded center. But instead of following the rhythm of the ocean, I follow the rhythm of my own breath. Even in the pull of the strongest tides of stress, putting your attention on the natural rhythm of your breath for a moment or two will help you “ride the wave of your own breath” as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, bringing you back to the shore of centeredness in your own body so you can think clearly and act from a place of calm.
I invite you to take a moment to place your attention on your breath today. Just for that moment, feel and be focused on the natural rhythm of your breath as well as the rise and fall of your chest. This simple meditation takes just a moment to do, and it can help calm you in the midst of the stormiest sea of stress in your life.