When dealing with chronic pain or other health issues, one never knows whether tomorrow will be a good day or a difficult day and that makes planning for events quite challenging. I end up cancelling often and feel frustrated in not being able to accomplish what would feel good and/or fulfilling. So how do you find fulfillment when you can’t commit, can’t work, can’t really give much energy at all?
I received a revelation in listening to Matt Kahn, who said that the only thing that will truly fulfill you is your very own breath. When I heard this, I immediately dropped expectations of finding fulfillment the way I used to do (as in sharing myself with others, sharing my music, or even writing this blog), and focused on developing a deeper relationship with my breath. It came as quite a surprise to me, a totally new concept, that fulfillment cannot come from outside myself but rather from something I do easily, all the time, and comes from within my own body.
Breath is inspiration, it is life; it is something we do completely unconsciously all the time and without it, we die. Of course, meditation is a great way to connect with the breath but I wanted to be more present to it throughout the day as well as during my morning meditation. I started by incorporating the heart math practice of breathing into the heart at the rate of 6 breaths per minute for 5 minutes at a time, 3 times a day. This particular practice has many proven health benefits which include reduction in stress, anxiety, and fatigue, as well as increase in resilience, and emotional balance. it is very calming and I have found that practicing this technique helped me remember to connect with breath and with heart at different times of the day. (You can visit heartmath.org for more information about the Heart Math Institute). It is also a good technique to use when stressful situations crop up; just to breathe at that rate for even one minute calms the mind and restores resilience and ability to respond appropriately.
Another practice I have adopted is Afghan Walking, which is a way of walking that coordinates the breath with one’s steps. Breathing in for 3 steps through the nose, one breath pause, breathing out for 3 steps through the mouth, one breath pause. I vary the number of steps depending on how fast I walk or what the terrain looks like. It is for me, a form of play with my breath while walking. A very grounding exercise that keeps me in the moment and open to receiving what the universe has to offer as I feel more present with both myself and the world around me. The gaze is kept open and out to the horizon rather than on the road directly in front of the feet.
In addition, now and then, whenever I remember, I will breathe in consciously a few breaths, with the words: “As is” (inspiration), “I’m here” (expiration) which reminds me to come back to the here and now, which is where all our power lies and where we are able to receive intuitive messages. It also releases tension, relaxing my muscles.
I love feeling closer to my breath, to my heart, to what renews and nourishes my body.
These methods of playing with the breath have helped me become more conscious of breathing but I also want to feel the breath as it is, without controlling or influencing it so I will lie down and tune into my breath just feeling where it comes in, what parts of my body move, how it leaves my body, etc. I can direct the breath to the parts of my body that need love and care, or I can allow the breath to bring up what needs care in that moment. Just tuning into the breath often releases an emotion and has me focusing on a part of my body that may need a release of tension. It happens spontaneously and naturally and in this way, the breath is the connector to my body and it becomes the healer.