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How many times have you heard someone say that to you? Angry? "Take a breath." Confused? "Take a breath." Frustrated? "Take a breath." I think this is one of the greatest things we can do for our own mental and physical health. But how do you remember to take a breath when you're angry, confused or frustrated?

I've been teaching myself and others for more than 50 years, and in that time, a sort of user's manual for living a life on the earth has formed in my mind. I've spoken in thousands of seminars, written more books than I can count, and now here's this blog: a distillation of useful suggestions for living a life that fully expresses who each of us is.

OK, how do you remember to breathe? And why should you have to remember - isn't it automatic? Like you, in times of stress I habitually hold my breath when I'd be better off putting my attention there rather than on what's bothering me. Focusing on my breath helps me relax so I can choose the next thing I need to do to handle the stress.

One time, swimming in a lake, I developed a cramp that was so severe that I had great difficulty staying on top of the water, much less swimming toward shore. I went down and came up. On about the fifth trip up for air, I realized that I really might drown. The intensity of that realization and the desire for life and for that next breath moved my consciousness in a way it had never been moved before. I focused my attention on staying alive. I remembered to breathe into the cramp, which allowed me to get moving. Then it was almost as if the shore reached out and pulled me in. I recognized the tremendous force of life that was within me and the great desire to continue with that life.

There's the formula. Focus on what you want; practice the habit of conscious breathing. Since that lake swim, I've practiced breathing, which is to say I've worked on building a habit of the kind of breathing that expands me, that relieves stress, focuses my mind and brings me immediately present.

Try it for yourself. Sit quietly for a moment. Let your body relax, take a slow, deep breath and feel the air gently filling your lower belly. Follow your breath in your imagination as it moves in and out. In a few moments you may begin to feel yourself "being breathed," with no effort on your part. You'll find more peace. Calm will be present in your life and likely, your awareness of the connection between breath and your essence - spirit - will increase.

About the author

John-Roger is founder of the international, nondenominational Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA), through which he has shared the teachings of Soul Transcendence, which isbecoming aware of oneself as a Soul and as one with God, not as a theory but as a living reality. For more information, visit msia.org.