The Power of Breath
By: Susan Borecki, Esq.*
“Wisdom is not acquired save as the result of investigation.” – Sankara Charya
Where did that button go? That bright red button that opens up the hole in the courtroom floor. It was right here a minute ago, wasn’t it? It was under a folder, maybe.
I practice criminal law in Washington, DC. My job is representing the accused. I do my best to challenge the prosecutor, her witnesses, her theory, and her evidence. If I am lucky, I also have witnesses, a theory and evidence to present. But I am not normally so lucky.
I attended a CLE in the early 90s called, “Only the Strong Survive.” One of the presenters discussed the Red Button. It was somewhere on the defense table, but was mostly elusive. Usually, the best one could hope for is the court reporter to ask for a break.
The presenter of this class gave a lot of pointers on preparing to defend the indefensible, how to bolster your client’s and your own confidence. One tip I remember was labeling your trial binder with the client’s name emblazoned in large bold letters on the cover and spine. Things you could do ahead of time so maybe you had a lot of distractions that you wouldn’t think about the red button.
But a CLE is not usually the place to look for solutions to mental or professional crises. We have to find those elsewhere. I did. Let me share it with you here.
Meditation is the quieting of the endless chatter in the mind. It is the attention to the breath that helps move one’s consciousness away from the mundane details that keep us busy and distracted.
It’s a few moments of discipline leading to peace. Over time, with practice, meditation stills the mind. It gives one the confidence to find the necessary momentum, to pivot, whether it is standing one’s ground or ceding it with grace.
The gap between two breaths contains a universe of possibilities.
So, let’s get started. Sit comfortably and breathe in (you didn’t need me to tell you to take off your mask, right?). Breathe out. Breathe out through your mouth, pushing the air out from your diaphragm. Breathe in again, this time more deeply.
If you haven’t closed your eyes yet, close them now. Breathe in from your nose, filling your lungs. Pause, if only for a nanosecond, then breathe out, again through your nose. Give yourself the pause. Continue breathing in and out like this for a few minutes. Some people go for hours, but a few minutes once or twice a day is fine.
Center your attention around your breath. Thoughts may arise in your mind. Ignore them. They will drift by. If they are important, they will be there when you are done. Keep to the simple task of relaxing and breathing until you are done.
The answer to panic is the emptiness between breaths. The breath can lead to space and clarity. There is no reason to disappear. Instead, transform and refresh by centering yourself.
*The author has been a student of Ayurveda and its related disciplines for as long as she has practiced law. Her specialty is criminal law, and she has prevailed in a number of high profile and precedent setting cases.