Jottings From Jazianzza Breath. So Simple. So Complex. So Vital.

Greetings to everyone and thank you for being a part of this wonderful hive celebrating Jazianzza Azzaza Buzzabee’s book, Bee-Coming Strong. I was honored to be her translator and now have the joy of letting the world know about it.

Jazi suggested I focus on breath for this newsletter as it was one of the most important things MamaQueenzieBee taught her. I thought it was a wonderful idea, so here goes…

A personal story highlights the crucial role conscious breathing had in my own life. As many of you know, back in 2017 a toxic exposure resulted in my contracting a rare, near-fatal auto-immune disease. It affected my sinuses, chest, lungs, and belly. In addition, I suddenly had asthma for the first time. In short, one of the things I took for granted my entire life was instantly elusive – my next breath. One night, as I sat up in bed so I could sleep, I realized I couldn’t find my next breath. It just wasn’t there.

It was only because I studied yoga and conscious breathing that I found a way through it without panicking. I realized I could “dip below” the breath, catch it like a wave, and ride it through. Without that calmness that came from the practice of mindful breathing, I would have been terrified. I doubt I could have done it.

That experience made me consider how scary it could be for those with asthma and other breathing challenges, especially children. Without some awareness of the very act of breathing, suddenly not finding that next breath could be awful. This was one of the reasons Jazi and I are eager to get Bee-Coming Strong out into the world; to offer techniques not only calming and grounding in emotional situations but also to learn how to become more familiar with breath itself, on the physical level, should challenges like this arise.

[Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. If someone has difficulty breathing properly, please seek appropriate medical care. What I am stressing here is to be used as an adjunct to the doctor’s care, not instead of it.]

Breath brings us into the present moment, enables us to handle fear better, and can cause a shift in our sympathetic nervous system from the inevitable “fight, flight, or freeze” response.

A friend suggested the NYT bestseller book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor. Though I haven’t finished it yet, I’ve found it fascinating and eye-opening. (Note: if you are a “mouth breather” instead of a “nose breather” I’d highly recommend getting a copy of this book.) One marvelous fact about the breath itself was astonishing. Nestor writes, “In a single breath, more molecules of air will pass through your nose than all the grains of sand in the world’s beaches – trillions and trillions of them. These little bits of air come from a few feet or several yards away. As they make their way toward you, they’ll twist and spool like the stars in a van Gogh sky, and they’ll keep twisting and spooling and scrolling as they pass into you, traveling at a clip of about five miles per hour.”

Although MamaQueenzieBee didn’t know that incredible fact, she was wise enough to instruct Jazi to pay attention to her breath. “What?”, Jazianzza asked. “I have breathed my whole life, but she wanted me to watch it?” MamaQB asks Jazi to lie down and put a tiny piece of pollen on her belly. Then she says:“Now close your eyes,” she said. “Breathe slowly, and when you breathe, make your belly go up and down so that the pollen moves up and down as well. That’s how you can know if you’re doing it the right way.”

And yes, just watching our breath, something the ancient yogis knew 5000 years ago, just this simple act can bring us back to the present moment, to our true self. It’s not only calming, but uplifting and empowering. We come home to who we really are. This is one of the things Jazianzza and I want to offer the world in Bee-Coming Strong, a simple technique to come home within ourselves. If I had known this deceptively easy practice as a child, I would have had more self-assurance and strength. This is our hope for all children and one of the main reasons Jazi felt called to write her autobiography, or perhaps we should call it her “memoir”.

Jazi wants everyone to know how she breathes because she doesn’t have lungs. They have valves, or spiracles on the side of their body that slide back and forth. Pretty cool! Check it out…

Ok, in a weird play of “art imitating life”, I just caught the last part of today’s Radiolab episode on NPR, and what was the subject? Breath! It was at times heavy and at other times an inspiring (yes, pun intended! 😉 ) session. If you are interested, I’d recommend it.

We wish you a day, a month, a life of valuing this incredible gift of breath we are given.

Thank you again for joining us, and if you feel called to do so, please invite others to join our hive via FB, email, or whatever.

“The breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

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