Posted on

Breathe, go within and be present

It’s ever so simple, and yet so profound. Breathe! Yes, just do it! Take in a deeper breath or two and breathe out long. Take a moment to really notice it and feel it. Feel your body as it responds. Notice how you feel. Really savour the moment. And notice the effect it has.

Now, what was going on for you? Where were you at when you read those words and took some deliberate, conscious breaths? Were you a bit somewhere else, a bit in your head, a bit on edge, or other ways that your mind uses to grab your attention? And how was your body? How were you feeling inside?

When we pause like this, and take in a few breaths, we give ourselves a moment to ourselves. To our Self. For a fleeting moment perhaps, we can sense pure heaven.

It’s an opportunity to come into the moment, be aware and fully conscious, to relax and let go, and go within and allow ourselves to feel more peaceful, connected and At One.

Very simple. But do we do it? Probably not as much as we’d like!

Do we do it?

As so often with taking care of ourselves, the challenge is in the doing of it. Remembering to take the simplest of actions to restore our equilibrium and balance can somehow elude us. Familiar?!

When I was in training, when our group would get a bit tense around something very emotional, our facilitator would call out, “Breathe!” with a long drawn out emphasis: “Breeeeeeathe!” And we’d all breathe, and let go, and the room would relax. It proved a great way to support oneself, which it is why it is so widely used by group practitioners. When there’s stuff going on in the room, you make a firm, steady effort to consciously breathe, down into the diaphragm, like you are expanding your belly, strengthening yourself in your power centre, grounding yourself, and being very present.

You can practice doing that in stressful situations. I have often coached people to use their breath when under pressure. It’s a great stress-management technique and superb in interpersonal conflict situations. It has often proved a great way to heighten awareness, since when you breathe consciously you start to feel and notice things you maybe weren’t attending to before. When people do this, they can start to react emotionally, but this is healthy since they can then be aware of and let go of stuff.

You can practice anywhere. After all, you’re breathing anyway, so why not give it some personal attention?! The situations are massively numerous. I found it particularly great when travelling, eg. when on the London Tube, on over-crowded trains or in delays at the airport.

How to breathe in meditation

It is also of course a fundamental technique in meditation, and a brilliant time to practice it. Consciously using the breath is a great way to start your meditation. You sit with the intention to meditate, taking a good, comfortable posture, and you start by attending to your breath. One or two deeper breaths, and then a gentler awareness of your breathing, breathing in, breathing out, and continue like that. There’s then a variety of ways you can notice your breathing and how you can use it to settle you, manage thoughts and refocus on your meditation when distracted.

When we slowly and steadily breathe like this, we become more calm, more peaceful, more relaxed, and more contented. We let go of stuff, and settle into a gentle steady presence, and be with ourselves in the Now.

You can practice this now if you like. There’s a link here to a page with a recording that will guide you into meditation using the breath. Click here.

It’s ever so simple, and yet so profound. A gift we have, which we can enjoy any time we choose to use it. Enjoy!

Posted on

Learning how to relieve stress

One could say that healing crises present us with a learning challenge, one that provides potential for personal growth. So it can be with stress too. In order to recognise not only that the symptoms are potentially dangerous and to seek ways to manage oneself differently, but also to take a good hard look at the underlying patterns, we have to to make significants shifts in our outlook on life and how we live it. It might even be that the approaching “stress crisis” invites us to make a choice between an old paradigm and a new one. Since huge numbers of people are now experiencing stress, this could be saying something massive for humanity, if we choose to follow it.

In order to learn how to relieve stress, we may be well advised to take up some relaxation techniques and the process can take us to explore within. It will vary from person to person, but how to relieve stress often involves letting go of bodily tension. One very good technique for this is a body scan which you do with your mind, taking a relaxed posture and then scanning through the body and, in a sense, breathing into and letting go of tension felt in a particular part of the body. Another associated one is to focus awareness on your breath, breathing in and breathing out. Every time your mind gets distracted, often with things that cause you stress, you bring your awareness back to the breath.

The more you practice such relaxation, especially if in meditation, the more you can find yourself experiencing calm and peace. This practice of being present and aware, in a state of peace, can in itself be a breakthrough for people. It does take lots of practice, and a willingness and commitment to stay the course, and gently re-focus the mind every time it goes off course. This self discipine pays didvidends over time. It is not a quick fix, much though many people want that. It is a steady, focused effort to re-direct your life. Hence it becomes life changing, especially if combined with managing the mind as described in the last post. using self awareness to notice and let go of unhelpful patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Here is where you can find a whole new dimension to your life, if you want it, one where you can progressively feel more at peace with yourself and with life. The inner calm I am writing about is there for everybody. It is a natural resource within in us. Life and its distractions, led by the ego, take off where it doesn’t serve us. The wake-up call of the healing crisis of stress, and learning how to relive stress, takes you to now places within and in your relationships with others and where you are going in life.

Our stress-relieving life coaching is particularly designed to help you with this process.

Posted on

Finding our own peace in the midst of conflict

Yesterday on New Year’s Eve we went to the church in the “lost” village of Imber on Salisbury Plain for a peace vigil. Most people probably know nothing about this place, which was taken over by the military in preparations for the D-Day invasion of Europe of 1944 and held by them ever since. The inhabitants were ejected in the cause of the greater good, never to return, except on occasions when the MOD open up the access roads for a few days.

The place in midwinter seems forlorn, showing little sign left of the once-active farming community’s houses but instead blockhouses used for combat training in built-up areas. Only the church is preserved, and beautifully so too. It had a barbed wire fence round it, and I wasn’t sure if that was there to keep the troops out. I was struck how somehow this place was still there while all about the military no doubt unleashed hellfire and whatever, somehow a fitting symbol of the cause of peace in the midst of war. It was almost a symbol for life as a whole too, a place of calm within a potentially turbulent environment, like the utter calm of our inner Selves when the ego is externally seemingly in full control.

There were small groups of visitors quietly walking around, or standing to read the displays showing the history of the place, or sipping the tea on offer. We made a small circle, lit candles and took it in turns to reads poems about peace, and just be present there.

It seemed fitting somehow to be marking the calendar change by holding a peace vigil. It also seemed good to go to a place associated with war to do that. At times like this it’s good to reflect for a moment on the fundamentals of life, one of which is our propensity for war and conflict. While we think it good to protest against it happening, it’s also worth remembering that it does happen and that we do need our military to help us when we’re so involved. However, it is at times like these that we can perhaps also think of what is preferable, and of the ultimate futility of war.

What occurs “out there” is a reflection of what occurs within, and when we each think about war it is worth thinking of our own propensity to conflict, our own resentments and anger, which we might direct at others but might also direct at ourselves. Christmas time is one such occasion when these boil over, and when we can be most acutely aware of our own inner wars. It is these inner conflicts that we humans need to take responsibility for and address. Then we can really know peace.