If you don’t know what’s going on in my life, you’re either not on my facebook or you’ve not been paying attention to my blog. Feel free to go back and read and get caught up. I can wait….
Ok… all caught up?
So with everything that’s been going on, my depression spiraling out of control, my life just seems so UNMANAGEABLE… I was reminded to just stop and breathe by a friend of mine.
This is an essay he wrote: (copied with permission)
Don’t Forget to Breathe
A number of my friends are going through hard stuff lately. Stress, from any number of sources or causes, seems to be grinding down a lot of people I care about right now. In many cases, these people are geographically removed from me, and so as much as I’d like to, I can’t really help any more than to say “hugs” or something similar. But maybe there’s one thing I can do–remind them to breathe.
Last year, I took up Zen Buddhism, and I’ve found a good deal of peace from it. There are two main parts: the philosophy, and the meditation practice called zazen. Zazen means, simply, “sitting meditation”. And that’s really all it is–sitting. I’m not one to evangelize; I’d just like to suggest that you might want to give this simple zazen thing a go, and see if it doesn’t help you out a little.
Grab a pillow, fairly thick or firm. You’re going to sit cross-legged on the floor with this pillow under the back edge of your butt, to raise your lower spine a few inches and correct your alignment. If you can cross your legs in the lotus position, do it. If you can’t, try half-lotus–one foot up on the opposite thigh, the other foot just tucked up close. And if neither works, simply sitting cross-legged is fine. If you manage lotus, your knees should be approaching the floor because of the pillow under your butt. But the main point is simply that you’re sitting cross-legged, well-balanced, with a straight spine like there’s a string pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling.
Place your hands casually in your lap. If you want to be specific, lay the right hand down, palm up, lay the left hand in it likewise, and touch the tips of your thumbs together–but this isn’t so important, really.
Wiggle back and forth, side to side a bit, to ensure you’ve found your balance. Your breathing should come from your belly. Don’t try to do anything with your breathing–not the pace, not the depth, nothing–just let it be however it is.
Your head should be straight up, face forward. Your mouth hangs just slightly open, your tongue against the back of your upper teeth so that you’re breathing through your nose. Your eyes are open, but directed gently down at about 45 degrees, at an empty spot on the floor or wall before you.
Now just sit and breathe. Your mind and body will relax, if you let them. Don’t try to make them relax, just don’t do anything. If a thought comes up, you needn’t force it away; just don’t feed into it, and it will drift away on its own. It may help to count your breaths for a while, starting at one, and when you get to ten, start again at one. If you like, when you notice a thought intruding, let it go, then start back counting from one. Even without good back muscles, if you’re sitting properly, you should be able to maintain this for five minutes without difficulty.
And that’s it. Just sit, breathe, and let yourself not think. Do it for five minutes to start, once a day. If you can keep it up consistently for a week, try adding a minute each day, or doing five minutes twice in a day. But there’s no need to push yourself. Even a little bit can help a lot, a little bit of calm in your otherwise chaotic life. You’ll find that letting the thoughts stop on their own becomes easier with practice, too. And trust me–it’s not just this five minutes of calm that you’ll enjoy. It honestly will help to make the rest of your day a little better, too. You’ll see.
One word of warning: Our minds aren’t used to being quiet. The more we manage to still the conscious thoughts we’re used to buzzing around with all the time, the more our minds may try to fill that void with other things. It is not uncommon to find things bubbling up from the subconscious, or half-remembered dreams, or forgotten memories. Sometimes, this can be wonderful, as you can suddenly understand an emotional situation that has puzzled or bothered you for years. Other times, it can be disconcerting, as you realize something you didn’t want to realize. But remember–they’re just thoughts; nothing but ephemeral creations of the complex interactions of the electricity in our grey matter. They, too, can simply be let go.
Give it a try. You might be very glad you did.
I’ve done this twice now.
The first time, it became very evident that some fears I had needed to be vocalized, some things needed to be said, some conversations needed to be had. I had one of those conversations, and it went amazingly well. I was able to breathe after that conversation – the stresses from that occupied a lot of my mental space.
Yesterday, I had a complete and total meltdown. Bawling, wanting to run away, wishing that there was a way out. (Note to all drivers of the Sea to Sky Highway – I was the crazy lady bawling while driving the little silver car at about 115 km/h on Thursday. I apologize.)
This morning, I sat for 6 minutes breathing… and the thought came to me… “In order to rebuild, you need to break down first”
Breathing is the basis of everything we do. Breathe to live. Breathe to calm down.
Breathe to pull in more oxygen so we can do that one more lap.
A baby is born, and we listen for that first breath, that first cry.
I spend a lot of time watching my husband breathe. I watch the machine that assists his breathing, I watch the monitor that tells me his oxygen levels, I watch his chest rise and fall.
I need to remember to breathe. I need to remember to sit for 5 or 10 minutes every morning in quiet contemplation, allowing my body/mind/soul to centre and ground and be able to face the day without fear.
The breakdown yesterday was necessary – there was a lot of pent up emotions that needed to be let go of… I don’t think I’m done with the breaking down process yet, but I don’t think its going to be quite and traumatic going forward.
Today, I am able to breathe. I am able to focus on the things in front of me, follow the path set before me without panick. Today, I remembered to breathe.