WHY (OH WHY) CAN’T I BREATHE PROPERLY – DAY 7
Is breathing the stairway to nirvana – peace and calm – as we often hear? Or a highway to hell?
It’s a good question. The tentative answer – after much research, discussion and practice – is “only if you are already in a state of relative calmness”. But what if you are actually feeling a bit panicked and desperately needing that calmness? Or if focusing on the breath makes you feel unsafe? The experience of ‘failing’ at breathing can be a down-escalator to shame, tension and self-loathing. Failing at breathing: what a bizarre concept! After all, “if you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you,” as Jon Kabat-Zinn so momentously noted!
When breathing has been fraught with messages of danger, being taught to breathe without sensitivity to trauma needs can cause more harm than good. It can further alienate us from our body and our Self (the capital S is deliberate).
Continuing the journey towards re-friending and enjoying our breath, how about this? Take a drinking straw and be really curious about how long and slowly you can breathe out through it. Better still, see if you can use your breath to make a candle flame bend but not go out. How far away can you place the candle and still make the flame bend? Have some fun. Experiment. Share the game with friends and family.
This course has explored the role of a measuring mind and a judging mind (2 different thought-forms) in making breathing more difficult. We have tried out some practices that allow contact with the breath, without the need to perform some bizarre counted or controlled protocol. Re-discovering the joy of breathing is a wonderful step along the path to wellbeing.
If shortness of breath has been an indicator of imminent danger for you, then it can be very helpful to learn how to come into contact with your breath without triggering the ancient fear. Once moments with the breath feel safe, then the journey towards enjoying the breath might begin.
John Welwood: Forget about enlightenment
Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be,
Not the saint you are striving to become,
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You are already more and less
Than whatever you can know.
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