Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, has authored over 100 books on meditation, compassion, and other aspects of living a peaceful life. In 2014 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to make the world a better place.

The reason I bring him up today is because of the quote above. Those of us in recovery can use this quote to help us stay calm and focused in our sometimes very busy and stressful world. And to use this tool you don't have to believe in Buddhism or any other kind of dogma. You can use this simple tool of conscious breathing at any time during your day.

For example, maybe you're late to work and you're hurrying down the freeway. Then ahead of you is a sea of brake lights. Immediately you tense up, feeling your heart rate increasing, as you realize you're going to be even later for work. But instead of pounding your steering wheel and cursing at the traffic, you could react differently. Instead of getting upset, consciously take a deep breath, feeling the oxygen moving down to your lower stomach, maybe below your belly button. If you breathe like this two or three times you'll find yourself becoming calmer and more peaceful. You won't get to work any faster. But when you do get there you won't be bubbling over with anger or stress.

This is a technique that you can use very subtly and at any time. Perhaps you're in a social situation that has raised your anxiety level. No one's going to notice as you take a deep inhalation. Even if you do it two or three times. But they are going to notice your serenity and calm.

Maybe you're asking the boss for a raise, and you are understandably nervous. Instead of living with that case of nerves, draw in a deep breath as you wait for the meeting to begin. And it's something you can practice even while in the presence of your boss. He won't notice what you're doing. Plus he might interpret your calm demeanor as self-confidence and be more inclined to give you what you are asking for.