The Crime We Commit Against Our Dream: Not Breathing

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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breathing exercises

Sometimes the universe delivers exactly what we need.

I am on the tail end of helping my 16-year-old son with finals, papers and projects all due in a whirlwind of me wanting to kill myself. High school is one reason I don’t want to believe in reincarnation — who wants to be exposed to this all over again?

Parents who tutor their children through school should get an honorary doctorate. I’m just saying . . .

It was after I helped my son review a five page report on green technology (hear me snore) that I found myself collapsed on the couch thinking about how we make our dreams come true. The television was on low so I hadn’t noticed it until the corner of my eye caught a smiling, skinny woman in white waving her arms.


Brave woman to wear an almost-white pants-suit on television. Maybe I should turn up the TV and hear what she has to say.

Her name is Adrianne Ahern, Ph.D and she apparently had her own special on PBS.  She must know something, right?

To quote her, “I have always believed that each one of us has a gift to offer — a special unique gift. A mentor of mine one wrote, ‘It is through the finding and giving of this gift that we may come to know the joy that lies at the center of both the dark times and the light’…”

Is she a member of 8 Women Dream and no one told me?

There was something about her words that made me sit up in an attempt to listen to what she had to say without falling asleep. Sorry, but if you get a single mom to actually sit down after 10:00 pm, let alone on a couch, she will usually fall asleep in five minutes or less.

And snore.

But Dr. Ahern drew me in with her thoughts on how to take charge of your life when you are allowing negative emotions to pull you away from your dreams. Programs like these interest me because I am curious if what the speaker is saying can be applied to dreamers reading 8 Women Dream.

The cornerstone of Ahern’s method is dealing with the mind through breath to bring you back into your body. She believes that you can use your breath and the awareness of your body to connect the thoughts in your head with your heart (emotions), and the experience and sensations of your body, to overcome limiting thoughts and feelings of being overwhelmed and afraid.

Deep breathing can help move you forward with your dream.

She says –

The odd paradox is that the fast paced, narrow focus on “doing” that causes us stress, also serves as a coping strategy. Here’s how it works: A negative feeling arises, like anxiousness or fear. We unconsciously seek out distractions or actions and focus intently on them.

For a short time, this focus on “doing” effectively keeps us from feeling our anxiety or fear. The busier we are, the less time or opportunity we have to truly feel negative emotions.

But it’s a vicious cycle: The more we distract ourselves from feeling our emotions via increased action, the more stress we create on our systems. And, the more habituated we become to the stress itself.

We do finally “get it.” But this awareness often comes when our systems can no longer deal with this crazy stress. We find ourselves with high blood pressure, alcoholism, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety,  IBS, etc, etc.

We wake up one morning and realize that we are constantly frustrated or angry, 20-30 pounds overweight, or feeling trapped and exhausted.

We don’t know how to slow down, wind down or relax. We don’t know how to bring balance back into our life–is that even a possibility? How did we get here?

And, more importantly, how to we get out of here?”

Within the first moments of a stressful situation, use the following breathing exercise to re-balance your nervous system and bring calmness, clarity, and creativity back into your life.

Dr. Adrianne Ahern’s One-Minute Stress Buster —

1. Acknowledge the stress — the feelings of irritability, frustration, anger, boredom, fear, sadness

2. Focus on your heart center. Shift your focus from the negative experience of the stress to your heart center. Place your hand over this area of your body to facilitate your ability to fully attendto your heart center. As you do this, you are connecting with yourself and centering yourself in the moment.

3. Breathe with your heart. Imagine that as you inhale and exhale your breath is going in and out through your heart center.

4. Activate a positive feeling — recall a positive experience that stimulates a feeling of caring,
appreciation, joy, or gratitude and breathe with attention to this feeling.

The power is in the positive experience of the feeling. This simple 4-step process literally stops the flow of the stress hormone in your body and releases the vitality hormone (DHEA) which is associated not only with stress reduction, but anti-aging, weight-loss, increased immune functioning, and much more (for more information, please go to

I began to practice her breathing exercises as I sat on the couch and felt a wave of clam and joy wash over me. Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as being aware of your breath can change how you feel?

Whenever you feel the urge to quit before you push open that door to the interview that could change your life, or before you talk yourself out of that important phone call that could change your situation, or before you let fear grind your dream to a halt — practice this breathing exercise and remind yourself that you are worth it.

You can find more on Dr. Adrianne Ahern at her website Snap Out Of It Now!

Keep deep breathing!


Catherine HughesCatherine’s dream is to be a motivator and published writer. She is testing her theories on motivation with this blog and the seven other women who have volunteered to be a part of her dream project. Catherine also writes about her life as a mom at the blog A Week In The Life Of A Redhead. She would also like to be invited to speak at TED as the next Erma Bombeck. Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in when needed.

  • Ashley Kalley

    I was suggested this website by my cousin. She thinks I am the expert of proper breathing and a healthy breathing practice to sustain life and health. Breathing oxygenates every cell of your body. Rhythmic breathing creates a state of balance between your hormonal, immune, cardiovascular, and nervous system. There is this great article on how healthy breathing makes you live longer – – it’s a pdf file which is a copy of the newspaper article. I am glad to see other people writing about the benefits of deep breathing.

  • Ok, here I go acknowledging the stress. Deep breath… very cool post!

    I’ll go work on my breathing now :) – H

  • Remy Gervais, Top Photographer

    What a great technique! I am glad it worked for you yesterday morning! xo Rem

  • Lisa

    Great post Cath and great exercise. Nothing shifts our physiology and mood faster than deep breathing. And I love how she says that when we are feeling stressed, or depressed, or anxious, rather than just escaping it, or distracting ourselves, we can feel it ~ THEN breathe and focus on a positive alleviating feeling.

    This is awesome! :)


  • Rayne

    Alternate headline: Breathe right – lose weight! That’s what got my attention. But yes, good information that will help a lot of people. I’m going to try it today and report back. Makes total sense!