work/life/tech/zen: Breathe…just breathe

I was just emailing with a friend about breathing. The importance of meditation and simply breathing. She is around my age and recently had a heart attack. Suddenly, the act of breathing takes on even greater importance when viewed through our lens of mortality.

When I was living in New York City, I took a women’s self-defense course called Impact/Prepare where they gave women permission to beat the daylights out of padded assailants.

One of the biggest takeaways of that course for me was this:

If you are in danger, breathe. Just breathe. Your most powerful weapon is your brain. And your brain needs oxygen to function.

When I was held up at gunpoint and kidnapped with a friend on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, muscle memory from that course caused me to breathe slowly, more deeply, as the ordeal unfolded.

As I sat in the courtroom and testified against the assailants, I knew my facts were straight because my mind was clear on that terrifying night. Because I gave my brain the oxygen it needed then, and it did not fail me.

We’re overworked, over-connected, overwhelmed. And the first thing we must do to get a handle on all of this is to breathe. Just breathe. Give your brain the oxygen it needs, then use that clarity to make better decisions.

The more you let go, the more room you’ll have for the important stuff. But that’s another blog post…



  1. Miro Cansky

    This is a great artricle Aliza.

    It is amazing how quickly our breathing changes when we feel a strong emotion or when there is a powerful thought. When I teach people mindfulness skills, they often notice that they have been holding their breath for long periods of time, without being aware of it.

    It is often a matter of remembering to breathe :-). And because remembering is not always easy, I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few tips with your readers on how to remember using mindfulness just when we need it most:

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