Breathing is the essence of life. It’s the quintessential pulsation that constantly connects us to our environment until the day we die. Every living organism on the planet contracts and expands in the most microscopic of ways. The bigger, more sophisticated and nuanced this pulsation is, the more complex and interesting its inner life can be. We know that human leaders are the most elaborate mosaic of textures, shades and forms to be found on this Earth. So what’s their breathing like? You wouldn’t believe how utterly mechanic and lifeless it’s become.
Especially because you don’t know what it used to be like thousands of years ago, before wars, civilization and the internet revolution streamlined us down to unfeeling shadows of what we used to be. Take a deep breath now. At least as deep as you know how. I could ask you how many walls of muscles you just moved. But the really interesting question would be how many you didn’t move. The problem is, you can’t feel what you don’t move.
And this is why poor breathing also makes us poor leaders. Despite our best efforts and intentions. Once upon a time humans lived in love with Nature. Life was about a deep-felt exchange of feelings, experiences and resources with the magnificent paradise around us. Mother Nature provided fruits and berries, fleshy animals and breath-taking views to feed our bellies and caress our sensitivities to unimaginable heights of intensity.
She also challenged us to grow smarter with all kinds of difficulties and hardships. We venerated Mother Nature with every breath we took: we inhaled whole-heartedly and exhaled energetically, just as all other animals still do today. We used to breathe in such a way that almost every muscle wall in our body moved. Our chest expanded in every direction and our diaphragm pushed down. Our belly inflated like a balloon, expanding our abdomen, yes, but also displacing our entire pelvic floor. Our head and shoulders moved upwards as many walls of tissue in our throat, and others in those secret spaces between our brain matter and our hard skull, heaved together.
Every breath awoke sensations and feelings all over our bodily vehicles, sending essential messages out to our environment, while bringing in crucial information on how we needed to respond to each moment of life. Our bodies were designed to lead all other species because we displayed more flexibility and adaptability than anybody else. We adapted better to each exam from Mother Nature. Our bodies instinctively ducked, stretched, accelerated or slowed down physically, emotionally and mentally. We were the materialization of perfect adaptation and leadership. And then our growing logic got the better of us.
With every horrible thing we did in the name of progress, civilization and technology, a small part of our bodies stopped breathing to avoid our own ugly feelings. With every generation of greed, wars and materialistic enrichment, our breath wave became poorer, smaller, more timid, and a lot less connected to its surroundings. As we lost amplitude, energy and security in our breathing patterns, we stopped moving layers and layers of tissue that no longer informed us about ourselves and our loved ones in silent, unmoving passivity.
Today we live longer than any other generation in human history, but we are more rigidly bent out of shape, more tense and more set in our planet-trashing, eccentric ways than ever before. We know we’ve passed thirty years because our bedside table is full of medicine. And with every decade we become stiffer. Physically, emotionally and mentally. As we endlessly discuss and write about ideals of leadership, success and KPI-measurable happiness with the parts of our bodies that still move, we ignore the fact that leadership and joy are about flexibility, feeling and instinct.
We talk about how to spark motivation with the tight breath of someone who hasn’t unleashed his own passion for a long, long time. So yes. Becoming a better leader is directly tied to how many muscles and tissues we move every time we breathe. And as you mentally order yourself to take another deep breath in reading these words, let me tell you why that pulsation will not go farther or fuller or deeper: too many ugly feelings hiding in all those immobilized tissues. Too many sad memories constricting muscles, organs, tendons and bones.
Some of these ugly sensations are inherited, some are our own. The rigidity in our bodies that keeps us from being better leaders is a silent witness to the many horrible things we’ve put behind us in our personal paths, our family stories and our entire human history. There is, however, great beauty to be found in those ugly emotions we try not to feel. There is enormous dignity and undying loyalty in every tear and every growl our body would express if we allowed it to.
Daring to breathe deeper is a quest for warriors. It’s an adventure into the secret jungles of our body’s wordless memories and unchecked emotional ordeals. Those who stop talking or writing to make space and time for silent deep breathing, releasing trapped sensations and expressing old emotions, find the joy, youth and passion the rest of us are tweeting about. To breathe more is to venture out into the unknown, to reconnect with Nature, to rediscover what makes us human, loving, leaders of the world. More than ever before, improving our leadership is about embracing the wild that silently hides inside our bodies, waiting for our permission to come out and roar like a lion.
As emotion and sensation flood back into our deepest, oldest tissues and joints, we regain youthful flexibility, wisdom of heart, and passionate connection to Nature. We grow closer to the kind of leader everybody loves, honors and respects. So please do keep up those deep breaths after you finish reading my post. Find privacy to help you safely uncover feelings, memories and past experiences.
Ask experts to help you focus your attention, explore breath variations and experience new levels of intensity. Embrace the hidden story your body tells about who you are and who you came from. And like any mother on her way to deliver a baby is told, whatever happens, breathe again.
As deeply and humanely as you possibly can. A new you will soon be born. A better man or woman. And a breathtakingly better leader.