Q. Today my brain feels totally bowed down with everything in my life and the chaos in my environment. I need a metaphor to help me breathe. Any ideas?

A. Recently while driving in my car, I heard an interview with Jennifer Stone broadcast on National Public Radio. She was reminiscing about her visit to Muir Woods, that famous and majestic stand of redwoods near the coast in Northern California. Jennifer described that walking into the redwood forest seemed almost like walking into a great green and gold cathedral. She perceived those giant redwoods as stretching upward for the light; as reaching for the chlorophyll of consciousness, as she put it.

I enjoyed that metaphor. When things seem rather chaotic and oppressive around me, down here on the ground, I now perceive my brain as standing tall and straight, stretching upward for the light. While taking a few deep brain breaths, I imagine I'm reaching for the chlorophyll of consciousness. It doesn't always change what's going on down here on the ground. It usually does alter my perception of what's really important and whether or not I need to take in all the craziness around me.

Brain breathing? Breathe in through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of twelve, and then breathe out through pursed lips to a count of eight. I do several brain breaths while activating the 20:80 Rule.

The 20:80 Rule? The 20:80 Rule goes back to the 2nd Century Greek Philosopher, Epictetus. He taught that it's not so much what happens to you that matters, rather it's what you think about what happens to you, the weight you give to it and the relative importance you assign to it that really matters. Think of the chaos in your environment as the 20 percent. Picture your metaphor as the 80 percent. Brain breathing, plus living the 20:80 Rule, are two key tools in my life-strategies trunk. They make a huge difference in my life.