Free and clear

Does it look like they aren’t breathing? They probably aren’t.


Hello, my above-average thinkers!

Have I got something great to tell you?

It’s about the inside of your nose!



I would like to invite you, as I often do, to observe your own thinking. So, so much of it is unpleasant. Disliking me relieves this unpleasant thinking of yours substantially, so take a break from that and think about whatever you were mostly thinking about today.

How unpleasant.

Now, you will notice, maybe you have before, that we rarely think of a single thing for very long. Thinking flows, does it not? Always moving. To try to think of one thing is like trying to stand en pointe.**  If you grab it, maybe a thought makes that little *ding* noise that goes with the glimmer in a toothpaste commercial. And… then it moves on.

So when you think about Unpleasant Topic X, what you really think is more like this:

Something about X, Some noise you don’t notice, Lunch was good, Unpleasant Topic X, Some noise, What?, Oh wow! Look how big my phone is, More unpleasant Topic X

But you only notice what’s bold. And so you are unhappy, despite being so pleased about so many other things. Which is what I am here to fix.***


Can you feel the inside of your nose? NOT LIKE THAT. Can you bring your awareness to the inside of your nose? No one gives a crap about your breathing, but I will revisit the large literature on concentrating on your breathing in a second. Meanwhile no one gives a crap about your breathing, am I clear?

Just feel it. Flare your nostrils a little, in and out like little goldfish mouths. Blow it if you have to. Picture the shape of it, dark little ski slopes extending up to the bridge of your nose. Got it?


Now, get ready to stop enjoying finding me much less intelligent than you and go back to your regular thinking. Don’t worry about “dropping” the sensation of the inside of your nose or any of this crap. In fact, don’t try to sense it at all for now. That was just to show you what it feels like, and once you’ve felt it you can feel it again.

Go ahead, forget about your poor nose and think about normal things that usually preoccupy you.

Now can you pay attention to what the inside of your nose is doing while you are thinking?

Go ahead, take your time.

Did you notice? Whenever you start on your usual unpleasant thinking–the inside of your nose wants nothing to do with it. Not a goddam thing. When you come to the thinking you most pay attention to, your nose freezes like you had pointed a gun at it and said “Freeze.” Do you know why?

Because you stop breathing, you dolt. So that you can think.

Now who’s looking unintelligent? Everybody, that’s right.


We actually can’t think in that high-pitched, buzzsaw, stressed out way that we like to and breathe at the same time. To test this, think about the inside of your nose, and focus on it. Give it priority. Again, don’t worry about crap like “dropping” the sensation, but keep coming back to the inside of your nose as you are thinking.

Now intentionally think of highly unpleasant and stressful things. If you are also focused on the inside of your nose at the same time, you can’t worry about them. It’s impossible. I just considered repeatedly my shrieking Valkyrie boss who always stresses me out. But combined with the nose, no stress. Nada. Zip. Perfectly pleasant. And it works on everything. Breathing helps you feel like you are not about to die. Who knew.


Of course, this approach takes a lot of practice (what was that, 5 minutes?) and expensive equipment (You have to have a nose. If you don’t, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.).

Or take lots of prescription drugs with dubious efficacy, whatever.

OK, that’s it! The rest of this is about why this works.


Why This Works

That cycle of thinking, with the noisy parts that you normally ignore? That’s there so you can breathe. You think, breathe, think, breathe, not both at once…. I know, how embarrassing. Don’t tell anyone you do this. Just remember you have the inside of your nose to help you anytime, and you can practice.

Isn’t amazing how nothing really needs to be that unpleasant? Bears further inquiry probably, but not here.


All that meditation talk about focusing on your breathing (I promised I’d get back to this) I think just supports my theory. Obviously breathing calms us down, and oxygen makes us feel good. So it’s not the mind exercises that make meditation so healthful, it’s likely just the extra air.

I would go further and say that you could divide the pathways or ways of thinking in our minds into those linked to breathing and those linked to not breathing– whichever we were doing when we laid down the pathway, we are likely to do when we travel down it again. And trust me, you don’t want the oxygen-starved ones. Picture elbowing your way through a crowd because you are trying to find a good place to vomit–that’s an appropriate situation for some desperate oxygen-deprived thinking. Not the vibe you want to bring into your life every couple of seconds.

So as readily as my mind can come up with tense and anxious crap when I’m not paying attention, that stuff feels totally inaccessible in an oxygen-rich, inner nose focused brain.****


Go get ’em!

*At this point you might ask yourself what happened to this blogger’s ability to feel embarrassed. I had it surgically removed!

**You know what that is, don’t make me spell it out. E-N P-O-I-N-T-E.

***If my intentional ambiguity makes you think I’m dumb, instead of entertaining, I still consider that success.

****Ahh, are you relaxed enough now that you aren’t bothered by my bad sentence structure? That’s great. Really.