“As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you.” Jon Kabat-Zinn.
This is emblazoned on my memory thanks to repetitive listening to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s ‘Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief’ this year. It also reminds me of another key phrase he says which is that you don’t have to like the meditations, you just have to do them! Which I duly did (not being able to do much else!) and after repeated listening they pervaded my soul, gently, consciously washing my brain into a better state of being.
As I write this, the half term holidays are upon us and my children are happily taking a breathing space from school. It is a time to reflect, take stock and work through any problems or tricky feelings they may be experiencing, before being ready to return to the world more recharged and set up for the next stage. In the same way, the ‘3-step’ or ‘3 minute breathing space’ is something that I have discovered and found so helpful in bringing a positive focus to my day to day life. It brings mindfulness into everyday activities and allows me to quickly check in with myself (see what thoughts, feelings and sensations are present), enabling me to respond skilfully, rather than react without thinking, to stimuli from the world around me. I know there will be plenty of chance to use it during this week of the school holidays.
Elements of every breath we take have been present in the breaths of everyone else throughout history. Just stop for a moment and think of all the people who have breathed the air you're breathing now, this is a mind-blowing concept! We are all connected with the air we breathe. Our breath is a way of anchoring us in the present moment, particularly at times of challenge. I remembering this was invaluable to me during childbirth, just focussing on the next breath - and the next contraction - rather than thinking about the whole, seemingly insurmountable event.
Right now, in the northern hemisphere autumn in the temperate forests and grasslands, the earth is breathing out. The yellow, red and brown leaves are falling from the deciduous trees. I see the grasses, ferns and other plants starting to wither and break down, letting go of their carbon dioxide. Then there will be a pause, or a holding of breath throughout winter, until eventually spring comes and the earth will breathe again with all the new green leaf growth, where the leaves quickly begin to photosynthesise, taking in the carbon dioxide and releasing precious oxygen into the air. The miracle of life itself.
Maybe sit by a tree, really sit and listen, watch and breathe with a tree. Even if you think it is the maddest thing to do in the world, let go of your thinking mind and just allow yourself to be. It is a beautiful thing to do, to feel connected with nature and the earth. Attune our rhythms to one another. “Connect with our awe and wonder at our existence and the natural world” as Ed Halliwell beautifully puts it. Whilst connecting to your tree you can engage all of your five senses to feel fully alive. There are countless scientifically, peer reviewed studies that show this kind of exposure to nature can decrease your heart rate and sympathetic nerve activity, lower stress hormones whilst at the same time increase good moods. Your executive brain function, so often switched to on in our modern world, can rest and afterwards when we return to our daily lives we can rebound at the top of our game.
Right at this moment, I can hear my favourite tree, where I like to sit sometimes, calling me. Maybe this time I’ll take my children with me, time for a breathing space together.
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth. I hope you are enjoying the ‘breathings of my heart’. I would love to hear from you and start a wider conversation on the topics shared here. Please comment below, connect with me, and do please share this blog with others. Thank you, Clare x
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