Keep breathing. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet, so profound. Last summer we were blessed with the opportunity to spend six weeks in our travel trailer visiting family and friends in Washington State. In an RV park near Seattle, I noticed a gentleman sitting on a rock wall every morning as I walked our dog. His name was Earl, and he loved to talk to everyone who passed by.
One morning, I noticed balloons tied to his car and I had to ask him about them. It was his 101st birthday (and yes, he still drove his car)! I wished him a happy birthday and as we chatted, I just had to ask him his secret to a long life. “Keep breathing,” he responded. “Just keep breathing.”
I was dumbstruck with his philosophical response.
I have given considerable consideration to his secret and am reminded of the Zen story of the man who was climbing the mountain to seek enlightenment. On his way up, he met a Master coming down. He stopped the Master and asked, “What is the secret to enlightenment?” The Master replied, “Chop wood and carry water.” The man then asked, “What comes after enlightenment?” “Chop wood and carry water,” answered the Master.
“Keep breathing.” “Chop wood and carry water.” Both mandates are reminders of the importance of daily practice. Just as it’s not enough to breathe only once, or to chop wood and carry water only once, it’s not enough to exercise the habits that make us better only once.
The daily practice of successful habits requires a disciplined commitment to yourself. That’s why for most people, diets don’t work. People will drink the magic weight-loss potion or follow the latest fad diet for a while – maybe even achieve their goal weight, but then they go right back to the old habits that made them unhealthy in the first place.
Exercise is an excellent example of daily practice. It’s not enough to just buy the gym membership. It’s not enough to lift weights for a few weeks and then think you’re done for the rest of your life. That’s wishful thinking. Strength training and fitness maintenance is a life-long pursuit. You can’t quit and stay fit.
Daily practice is a reflection on your focus and your intention. Daily practice is being mindful. When you become distracted (mindless) and get caught up in the daily stress of life and the myriad of to-dos on your list, you are not focused on being your “Best Self” or on accomplishing your goals. You are focused on your fears and most likely have forgotten to breathe deeply; your breath has become short and shallow in the chest almost as if you’ve stopped breathing.
I’ve often said that we are always in trance, and mindfulness tools such as meditation and self-hypnosis are all about taking control of the trance you are in. In my experience, most people are caught in the daily practice of mindless trances of fear, anger, hurt and sadness. If that describes you, you can change this daily practice to one of focused intention on love and wellness.
It is not enough to temporarily change behavior to lose weight or to accomplish other goals only to return to the old behaviors. Changing behaviors, thoughts and emotions requires a consistent practice and focused intention to “keep breathing” and to “chop wood and carry water.”
Roger Moore is a certified counselor and medical hypnotherapist with Palm Desert Hypnosis and can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 219.8079. He is the author of Becoming the Greatest Expression of You. For more information, visit www.hypnosishealthinfo.com/medical-hypnosis. All sessions are online telehealth.