“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

I got engaged last week.

While this very good news, it’s not without turmoil. There’s the work of planning a wedding, accompanied by the inner roller coaster that comes with any major life change, no matter how welcome.

I’ve found myself swinging from extreme joy to terror and everything in between, simply because I’m contemplating a future that’s unlike anything I’ve known in the past. Which demonstrates the point that change by itself triggers the ego to freak out.

And by freak out I mean create the experience of being stuck as old patterns I thought were over race to the surface. This is because the ego fears change like it fears death, and in the face of the unknown it will grab onto the known – entrenched mental/emotional patterns – to create a context of safety. Then big change isn’t change at all, just another means for experiencing being stuck.

While there are many valuable tools for addressing stuck patterns, what I’ve found particularly useful comes from something a yoga teacher used to say during especially difficult poses:

Use more breath than you need to do the exercise.

Whenever something feels too big or too much for you, be it a pattern or a life change, it’s a symptom of not showing up fully. Based on the premise that your true nature is infinite and capable of all things, anything that feels overwhelming can be observed as holding back from your power.

Breath then is the tool for bringing the spirit into the body, and showing up fully so that you draw yourself forward and face the thing you might otherwise shut down from or try to avoid. In this way your conscious, higher thought centers take up the space once occupied problems, so there is no longer room for them.

Whenever my mind starts to spin, thinking about what’s wrong or feeling lost, I pause and breathe with the same deep, strong breath I would use if I were holding a difficult yoga pose.

I use more breath than I need to experience my thoughts and feelings, bringing myself deeply and fully into the areas of my psyche most rooted in fear. I breathe until there is only breath, and I am fully present.

Then my true capacity becomes a felt experience, the context in which life events unfold. And the joy of getting married delights my whole being.