Recently I was reminded of something simple, profound and very available, – breathing. Not just any old breathing, – conscious breathing.
I also became aware of an affiliated piece of knowledge, which is that while I am unaware of how I am breathing the unconscious part of me is determining how I breathe.
I am realising more and more that one of the simplest and most useful tools I have to respond constructively to my body (and to my negativity bias*) is to develop a long term relationship with breathing. Conscious, intentional and exploratory breathing. I’m talking about valuing breathing as something to pay attention to and as something to foster. I hope to inspire you in that direction with this article, and with access to a guided 40 minute breathing audio that you could use repeatedly if you find it to be useful.
Lifestyle, it has been said, is the most powerful type of medicine. The things that you do with most regularity – your habits – are the most powerful influences upon your health. What you do consistently may well have the most potential impact in your life. So imagine choosing to do something on behalf of your breathing, not like a one-off gesture, but more like a long term relationship. I’m thinking that if you want to get on well with your unconscious, occasionally give it a break and take over the job of managing your breathing. Take the job over and spend some quality time tending your garden of breath. I can assure you this can be pleasurable and most certainly does not need to be arduous.
I wear a ring that, amongst other things, tracks my respiratory rate overnight to see how I am breathing.This same ring also records my heart rate and something known as heart rate variability. When I engage in my morning breathing practice I record the lowest resting heart rate of my entire sleeping period,- of my whole day. When I engage in my breathing practice I record improvement in my heart rate variability. I’m quite certain that many rhythms and other internal signs of my wellbeing are positively influenced, even though they may not be recognised or recorded by the ring. Certainly my mood sees considerable and obvious improvement. My mental clarity sharpens.
The thing is this breathing is effecting my health, and it’s quite positive.
Last night for example, I ate a meal later than usual. I woke up with a kind of sticky feeling in my abdomen, like my food hadn’t digested and my digestion was on pause mode. I know it’s better to eat well before bed however I don’t always live that out. So the first thing that gets addressed through my breathing is ‘the fuzz**’ or the micro-adhesions that can develop overnight during sleep. During my morning breathing practice I breathe into the stickiness until I find just the right breath to help release the sticky feeling in my abdomen. Whooooosh – it’s the only word I can think of to describe the sense of release as the layers unstick and suddenly seem to slide more readily across one and other.
That’s not all that happened though. Somewhere during the breathing process I began to feel this bubble of emotion that I would eventually come to consider to be fear. To be clear though, I wasn’t feeling afraid. I began to sense something come in to focus. As I continued to breathe an achy type of bubble arose from just below my diaphragm. As it caught my attention I adjusted my breath to connect with the sensations. The bubble began to slowly rise up through my diaphragm and well up into my heart. As it reached my heart it transformed into a profound and expansive glow, spreading globally through my body. Whoa! It was technicolour connection…quite a remarkable sensation. This doesn’t happen every time I lay down and start breathing. It is, however, just one of a myriad of possible experiences that can unfold through the time I spend connecting my breathing and adjusting each breathe to what feels good in my body.
When Don McFarland used to teach the One Month Bodywork Retreats at our place in Queensland there was one thing I would watch him do each morning before breakfast (but not before coffee;-). He would grab one of the chairs, sit himself down outside his room in the sun and he would breathe. Breathe and listen, breathe and gently move, breathe and feel his body. This was his meditation, – an active breathing process from which he clearly drew much inspiration.
So to complete this blog, here is a link for you.
This was recorded at the 2022 One Month Body Harmony Retreat at Alaya Verde in Queensland, Australia. This audio file is intended to be listened to laying down in a safe and comfortable space with no interruptions.