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Posts Tagged ‘breathing’

I wanted to break my latest hiatus by letting you know I’ve been thinking of you. I know I haven’t reached that many people with my words in the grand scheme of things. That said, I do believe that those whom I have touched have in turn touched the lives of others, just as I continue to share the gifts of insight and love that others have given me. We are sharing the human experience, and we can’t stop our influence from spreading beyond our reach.

It is my sincerest goal that my life bring more love, more peace, and more joy to the lives of those around me than I would have thought possible. And that, through enjoying those blessings we share, those lives then shine their light forward to illuminate the dark spaces of others. In this way, the light and love that I have received with may continue that work throughout our world.

Please, take a moment to remember something that is special to you, that warms your heart. Remember a thought, an experience, a talent or a dream that helps you feel your spark inside. Take three deep, slow breaths, savoring this moment of precious peace. Feel the sacred beauty of nature, and of the human heart, savoring that precious unity-point where the outside world touches your skin. Remember we are one people, sharing one planet, and enjoy a moment of gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Take another moment, please, to experience the positive, warm peace that dwells within the stillness. Form a memory of what that feels like. And from now on, whenever possible, call up that moment of peace to your conscious attention, to help you through a hectic time, or even to periodically brighten your day.

As you practice this, you can’t help but create a positive influence for the world you inhabit. May that warm embrace of the joyful stillness come easier and easier for you, until it shapes your every day.

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We’re coming up on the halfway point for 2015, and it seems like things have really gotten busy. My prediction for this year was that the currents of life would be more like rapids, speeding forward in potentially chaotic ways. I felt as though, if we could keep our oars in the water, these rapids could carry us more quickly toward our goals. But if we let ourselves slip out of that current, then we could get swept suddenly askew.

I haven’t always kept my oars steering me in the right direction. I’ve certainly devoted more energy than needed in spinning around in circles a few times. But I feel as though I’m getting myself back into my groove, and it’s easier when I stop to breathe and forgive myself for going a little astray.

One practice that’s helping me is conscious relaxation. I remember what it’s like to be floating down a river, or in a soothing bath, just relaxing into the water. I imagine the gentle buoyancy holding me afloat, and I allow that sensation to flow through me, releasing the tension. I remember that my muscles don’t need me to hold them together through tension and pinching, and breathe deeply as I let go of that tension.

I haven’t been as dedicated with my yoga, and I let my mental habits tense me up more than I ought. But when I find myself tensing more as I upbraid myself about those lapses, I practice the buoyancy, and let it all go. My body has many years of practice in holding itself together, and it’s helping to free up that energy so I can use it to keep myself steady on this rolling, churning river of life.

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Changes to our environment have subtle effects on us. Soon they are no longer changes, but have become just more background hum running through our lives.

While we may not be consciously aware of these effects, our subconscious pays close attention to every tiny detail. If our environment has happy, friendly people, our subconscious begins to recognize that as normal. If we are surrounded by negative, violent people, our subconscious begins to recognize that as normal, too.

Our subconscious will also try to normalize our experiences to those expectations. It will help us see the good it feels we expect, as well as the bad. It can also help us say and do things, making choices that will continue to reinforce the good or bad that have become the baseline “normal” in our lives.

So it’s important to take a breath – a deep breath – and let it out slowly, paying attention to how we feel. As we breathe in, what kind of environment are we taking in? As we breathe out, what expectations are we sending out?

Taking a few of these moments a day for several days in a row should help us become more aware of this sea of experience we’re swimming in. Once we’re aware, we may make more conscious choices as to how we wish to experience our days to come.

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I wish that your life will feel greater, more complete, because of the day you’ve had today.

I wish that you will feel closer to your goals, if only by moments, and if only by understanding more of what it will take to keep moving toward them.

I wish that you will have a full minute of presence, with several full breaths of air you’re grateful to have the chance to breathe.

I wish you to know peace — if not completely, then just enough to remember what it’s like to pause within the moment.

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It’s been an interesting day to practice observing the present moment, and my presence within it. Every time I caught myself with a brief moment to spare, I tried to pause what I was thinking so that I could remember this big, beautiful world we live in.

I paused to be grateful for the chance to participate in this world, setting aside all of my judgment as to how well or how poorly I have fulfilled the opportunities it’s given me.

I paused to breathe in the air, and breathe it out, letting go of resistance to receiving as well as resistance to letting go.

I paused to feel my heart beat, and recognize it as a reflection of the living, breathing world that sustains me.

I paused to simply be a part of this world, and not in the very least apart from it.

With practice, being one with the present moment is easier than when I let myself practice forgetting it.

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I’ve still got that cough, and it occurs to me that I should probably summarize the cleansing breath that I mentioned in my last post, instead of just linking to a page that may not always be there.

The cleansing breath is a great way to nourish your mind and body with pure oxygen, and help your lungs clear out gunk and toxins. It’s great to do first thing in the morning, last thing at night, right before eating, before and after yoga or exercise, and frankly whenever you feel like it. Oxygen is pure life force, and we deserve to breathe in as much as we can remember to.

It’s good to do the cleansing breath standing up, but any generally relaxed position will do. First, exhale as much as you can, compressing your lungs to clear out the old air. Then, breathe in not-too-quickly, filling your lungs right up with air. Hold it for just a little while.

If your lungs are gunky or “stale”, you might cough a bit while you’re holding your breath up to the top of your lungs. That’s fine, clear it out, then try again. After holding the air just a bit, start to force the air out through pursed lips, keeping your cheeks pulled in (as opposed to puffed out, that is). Force the air out in short bursts, pulsing your diaphragm so that it compresses your lungs progressively from the bottom to the top.

If you’re like me, as the “short bursts” start to compress the air out from near the top of your lungs, that’s when you’re really likely to cough if you have anything to clear out. Light, shallow coughs can help the process of using the air to clean out your lungs. Just pay attention to your body and follow its cues. Don’t force anything unnatural, but don’t resist anything natural, either.

Hopefully this helps convey my understanding of the cleansing breath. May it serve you well!

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If you’re fighting a cold, I recommend a few little tips to keep it from getting into your lungs and making things worse:

  • Figure out if nasal irrigation is something that you’d do, at least for emergencies like keeping a cold from taking up residence.
  • Try sleeping on your side, tilting your head so drainage is less likely to go down your throat.
  • Take deep, cleansing breaths to fill up to the top of your lungs, then force the air out.  Be prepared for shallow to deep coughs, and ride them out, helping force the gunk up out of your lungs.

These have been helping me keep my cold from getting as terrible as it would be if I let it. May you make it through this cold/season as well as can be!

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One reason it’s so easy to get caught up in our thoughts is that we aren’t often grounded in our own skin. We tend to view our bodies as too mechanical, too “outward” or “foreign” versus “who we really are” in our minds.

That seems a bit backwards though, as I’m thinking about it now. So much of our brains’ resources are devoted to observing input from our bodies and managing all its many processes, it seems a little silly to view the body as separate from the mind. If we stop to focus our attention, we can even become closely aware of a portion of our bodies, filling our consciousness with the sensations of, say, our left foot, or our right ear. The mind as we experience it is closely tied to the brain, yes, which inherently ties us closely to the rest of our physical form, as well. The brain may be the CPU in the computer analogy, and this means it’s closely tied in with all the rest of the circuitry and processes.

So today, my Happy Zen Year practice involved taking a few moments to become more fully aware of being conscious within my body, rather than just my mind. I paused to observe the sensations of my skin, and within my lungs as I took measured, deep breaths. Because I’m feeling resistance to focusing within my body as I type, I’m going to stop and type out a relaxation exercise that helps ground and balance our minds within our body.

Lay down or otherwise be in a relaxed position, where your body is supported by the floor, chair, or whatever you’re on. Really settle down into that surface, trusting it to support your body. That is, feel within your mind and body the knowledge that if you let up on the tension and relaxed onto the surface, your body won’t crumble apart and fall down into nothingness. You’re secure there, stop holding yourself up and let the surface hold your weight.

Now, start at your toes, or even just one toe if you want to start SUPER focused. Take a deep breath, putting all your conscious attention into the sensations of that one toe. Feel how it feels, loving every sensation, as a part of your experience in being human at this moment. Take another breath, imagining the blood flowing down into that toe, filling it up with oxygen and nutrients, and clearing it out of waste and tension. If you want to use this as a relaxation exercise, breathe in quite deeply and tense up the toe, holding your breath and tension a few moments, before breathing it out and fully relaxing.  Take one more breath (or as many as you like) to focus into that toe, letting it relax into this purity of oxygenated, nutrient blood, letting go of all that it doesn’t need anymore.

As you take in your next breath, move your focused attention into your whole foot (or your next toe, you can go as slowly as you like).  Repeat the process with that foot, then your other foot, then your legs, then your hips, your back, your fingers/hands, your arms, your shoulders, your neck, your face, and your head. Then, put your focus to your whole body as a living organism, repeating this meditative breathing cycle once more. With your last breath in the meditation, breathe it out slowly, allowing the rest of the tension and all you no longer need to flow down into the surface beneath you, where it drizzles down in rivulets to the earth, where it nourishes new growth. (Don’t worry about your downstairs neighbors, it goes right into the earth where it belongs.)

Finally, take another breath inward, filling up your veins with oxygen and nutrients, energizing your body for the new growth you are ready for. Take as many breaths as you feel you’d like, until you are fully recharged. Then, you’re ready to get back to it, living life from within your skin.

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I am quite a fan of breathing meditation, particularly ones where you visualize white or golden light entering with your breath.  You then imagine that gold light flowing in through your lungs and to your heart, where it stays for a moment while you hold the breath.  (If you can’t or don’t want to hold your breath for a second or more, it can stay there while you exhale, and then glows more brightly as you add to it another breath.)  Then, as you exhale, the golden light flows to a part of you that needs attention or healing, or even just pumps outward from your heart, mingling with your bloodstream to nourish your whole self.

This is a little meditation that’s worth the practice, and can be done with half a mind while walking, doing dishes, driving, and so on.  The more you do it, the more you’ll find ways it works for you, and helps you better master being in your own skin.

There’s a great healing power in focusing on your breath.  As you bring in more oxygen, your body is nourished.  As you breathe deeply and rhythmically, your emotions are balanced.  As you focus on your breath and your heart, your mind is calmed and more receptive to the answers you need.  In this more-centered space, you’ll find insights if you practice patiently opening yourself to the golden flow of intentional breath.

This is one key to the heart of wisdom.

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I’ve heard a few times about our attention being our most precious and sought-after resource. Where we turn our attention is where we’re sending our energy, and in today’s world, just grabbing and holding someone’s attention is the key to success. That’s in part why our world has gotten so noisy, so cluttered, so demanding.

This came to mind because of a quote I just now came across. It’s reminding me that our attention and our energy are very precious resources that we need to treat carefully, mindfully. No reason to get too stressed over it, but it’ll help to pay a little more mind to where we put our mind:

You have a finite amount of energy. Wherever you are focusing your energy, and however you are giving it form, you are depleting the same well.
–Sebastian Coe, athlete and London’s Olympic chair

We can (and should!) always replenish our energy, but that also is a process in itself. We need to make sure we’re breathing in as much as we’re breathing out, and watch our breath a little more closely to keep from getting winded.

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