Can You Hear Yourself Breathing?

Can you?

Not normally, most likely. But now you can, because I’ve brought your attention to it. We breathe ALL DAY LONG, and never give it a second thought. The moment that someone mentions it to you, you shift your field of focus to your breath…and now it exists for you in a different way. Now, it’s all you can think about, hear, and feel.

So often we forget the power we have over creating the world we exist within. At any moment, we can shift our field of focus to creating a new perception, and therefore, a new reality.

Take acupuncture, for example.

Acupuncture, beyond a shadow of a doubt, promotes measurable physiological changes within the body. It clearly and consistently creates positive shifts in sleep quality, digestion, pain levels, anxiety…the list goes on. Why am I so sure of this? Well, science. And also, something that I witnessed during my intern days, back in school.

When you go through a graduate program in acupuncture, you intern in various medical settings, just like Western docs do. One of my internships involved treating babies that were born addicted to drugs.

It goes without saying that this was heartbreaking work. I wanted to remain unbiased but I was quietly enraged when I saw the parents of these screaming, suffering infants shuffling around and playing the happy family. I struggled to remain neutral and not to judge, but let me tell you, it was HARD. If you’ve never been around a baby born with drugs in its system, it is painful to watch. They are so helpless, so sick, and lack understanding of the WHY. They are born into a world of pain with no idea of anything that exists beyond it.

We wouldn’t needle these infants, of course. We had tools called teishins: non-insertive metal pointers that were used to press on the acupuncture points. What I witnessed in this setting was nothing short of miraculous.

The babies were all hooked up to machines that measured their heart rate, respiration, oxygen levels. As we gently pressed on a point to stimulate the lungs, we could see the machines change instantly and dramatically. Oxygen levels would increase immediately, and the respiration would even out. Bear in mind that this was not a slow process that we measured over minutes; this would happen the second we touched the acupuncture point. As we stimulated the heart point, the heart rate would slow down and even out. It was so dramatic that it seemed almost unbelievable. And as we continued our work, the screaming, flailing babies would settle and drift off.

If this doesn’t offer compelling proof that acupuncture isn’t placebo, I don’t know what does!

But I DO believe that there is also a powerful placebo effect involved in any type of self-care. And much of what constitutes the “placebo effect” is simply a shift in focus.

Think about it.

You’ve just come in for acupuncture for your cranky knee. This is all you care about, that your knee pain is preventing you from doing a long run this weekend and you want the pain to stop. You schedule yourself in for your session and you bustle into the office, still on your phone, dealing with some stressful work issue.

We finally pry the phone from your hand and needle you up, inserting needles not just in your knee but in various places in your body.

You lie there, waiting. Maybe you’re annoyed at first…dammit, you have so many irons in the fire at work and this hour is taking you away from that. You want to hurry up and get this over with so you can get to the next thing…

But then, something happens.

Despite your insistence on staying vigilant and stressed about work, you start to drift. Your breathing regulates. Your heart rate slows. You start to feel your muscles melting. Suddenly…it’s HARD to stay focused on your stress and irritation and overwhelm. Even when you try to focus on your work issues, you can’t seem to feel the emotion around the thoughts. They’re just thoughts, and they pass almost as quickly as they come.

An hour later, you are a better version of yourself.

More importantly, you have shifted your field of focus. You’ve created a different reality for yourself.

Your reality an hour ago was:

Work is more important than my well-being.

I am a ball of stress, and this will not change until my circumstances change.

My work is what creates my value.

I’m not important enough to deserve an hour of free time.

An hour later, your reality is this:

Work is what I do, not who I am.

Stress is an internal factor that I am fully in control of.

My value lies within, and I hold endless value.

My health and happiness are of primary importance, and I deserve to feel good and live in a state of optimal health.

Where you do choose to place YOUR focus today? What can you create for yourself before the day is through?