Buddhist philosophy has it that the breath helps to center us in the Now. As humans, according to Buddhist thought, we tend to avoid living today, primarily because pain and suffering occur today. We want to avoid pain, so our minds focus on the future. We all dream of a better future, but we can’t get there if we’re not present today.
Breathing is an automatic function. We don’t need to concentrate on every in-breath and exhalation. It’s because we don’t focus on our breathing that we’re absent from the present moment. The purpose of meditation is not to try proper breathing, though this is important. Meditation is about knowing ourselves; the way we think through breathing.
Focusing on the breath forces us to stay present and attuned to our surroundings. Our minds are wild and undisciplined. A thousand thoughts cross it every day, most of which is wishful thinking. We can’t expect to succeed in life if we spend every minute in a perpetual dream state created in the mind.
Breathing properly helps focus our attention on our thoughts as they arise. By being present, we can learn thinking skills, skills that are lacking in the average citizen. Most people don’t breathe properly through the diaphragm. Their breaths are shallow. Subsequently, the brain does not get an appropriate supply of oxygen it needs to function. A brain devoid of oxygen dies.
For proof, we can look at the death of George Floyd who died due to a lack of oxygen to his brain. He couldn’t breathe because of pressure on his neck by a police officer who should have known better.
In congested and polluted cities, it’s difficult to breathe pure oxygen. But we can’t ignore the fact that performance suffers under improper breathing habits we’ve developed. It might help to get to a place where we can practice the art of breathing for optimal health.