Use breath as GPS to guide you home

In 1992, my now-husband David and I spent a semester in London. We would sit in the pub with the other students in our abroad program and flip idly through a tattered copy of Fodor’s “Europe for Students,” arguing over whether we should go to Dublin, Paris, Edinborough or Rome.

Reliable ferries to France, a Eurail pass and a willingness to sleep in cheap hostels meant the world was our oyster. The very first thing we did, no matter where we found ourselves, was purchase a map of the city, a way to make sense of the strange places we found ourselves.

Without a reliable map, we would wander in circles for hours, never finding the Uffizi, Notre Dame, the Guinness factory.

Fast-forward 25 years. Google Maps and Siri mean we always know where we are positioned on this great green globe. But, as a society, we are more lost than ever.

We are drowning in information, but starving for understanding. We have lost our purpose, can no longer locate connection and meaning. We have directions to the mall, but can’t find our way back to the deepest recesses our own hearts.

Like Dr. Who’s Tardis, our minds are constantly stuck in the past or the future, rehashing or rehearsing. We forget that God instilled a GPS in the human body known as the breath.

The breath is a map to the now. It is a homing device that returns us, over and over, to our own lives.

When we connect to the rise and fall of our breath, we ground ourselves in the present moment. But our mind is like a sweet and cuddly Labrador puppy, always being led astray by distractions. Squirrel!

To help focus that short attention span, we can learn to meditate. And one of the easiest meditations is using the mantra “OM.”

The Sanskrit word mantra is broken down into two parts: “man,” which means mind, and “tra,” which means transport. In other words, a mantra is a way to transport your mind to the present moment, which then connects us to a higher power. “OM” is the sound that reverberated across the cosmos when the universe was created, the echo of the Big Bang. I like to think of it as God’s exhale.

It’s simple to use a mantra. Sit still and become aware of your breath. Don’t breathe in any particular way; just notice how you breathe in and out.

Then, when you are relaxed, silently think “Ooooooommmmm” as you breathe out. Let the length of the mantra match the length of your exhale. It gives the mind something to do during meditation, so it doesn’t wander off and get lost in the panoply of the mundane.

Otherwise, we sit in intentional silence and instead get a cyclone of loud mind rubbish. Did I feed the cat? I wish I had handled that situation differently. Maybe I need Botox. Is she mad at me? What does panoply mean? Squirrel!

The mantra guides us back home to the now. After all, OM and home sound the same.

Using the breath, we are never lost. When we connect to the now, no matter where we are, we’re home.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films. She wants everyone to make friends with meditation, eat real food, move their bodies and hit the pillow a little earlier. When she’s not standing on her head, she enjoys being a wife, mother, dancer, reader, flower sniffer, guitar player and wine drinker. Send her a shout out at erin@theOMplace.net or play along at www.theOMplaceChannel.com