Nancy Smeltzer, MFA In the eight years that I’ve been on my spiritual and healing path, I’ve been shown quite a number of techniques by the Divine. Working with my colleagues and drawing on their insights has also greatly expanded my tool box of techniques. However, there are times, especially in an emotional crisis, when all of the words and techniques go out the door, and all you can do is just breathe. Such was the case for me the other day when I got some very serious news regarding a family member. I was crying so hard that I was having trouble breathing from all of the post-nasal drip from a bad cold that I was getting over. Yes, I know that by talking to bacteria and viruses, as I’ve written about before, will quickly cause a cold to pass on, but I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, so I had been in bed for a week. My colleagues were helping me as I’m sobbing over the phone, and were able to get me to follow my breath in, notice it, and follow it out. As I began to calm down, I was able to then start saying “Breathe in peace, breathe out fear”, which gives the mind something to do to track the breath but stay out of the way. (I am brilliant at teaching others how to stay out of their minds and focus on their bodies, but when it’s my stuff…. sometimes not so good!) In the space of about forty five minutes, I was able to quiet enough to begin to notice… what, I don’t remember. I know it was important at the time. That’s why it’s so useful to have healing buddies to take notes, or at least write down in the moment what you’ve discovered. I’ll ask my friends again what was my big aha again when I talk to them next, but the Universe will always give me lots more chances to “re-discover” what I learned the other day… or not. Maybe I just needed to know what I knew at that particular time. This technique, that we call “Peace Breathing”, is very similar to some Buddhist practices of breathing. There are probably as many different types of breathing techniques as there are religious and spiritual practices in the world. They all seem to have in common a “mindfulness” as to what the sensations are about that are being experienced at the time. One of my colleagues encourages clients to have a child-like curiosity, as if a two year old has discovered a dead crab at the beach. The young child isn’t disgusted with the remains of the animal, but is curious as to what this new thing is about. Another useful technique is to imagine that the breath that you’re experiencing is the last one that you’re ever going to have. If you knew that were the case, then you would REALLY pay attention to all of the aspects of it. Then, surprise! You get another breath to examine, so notice everything about that one, how it feels and where it goes. Then, another breath comes along, and then another, and it’s amazing how absorbed one can allow yourself to be when all you’re doing is following your breath. Whatever permutation of “following your breath” that you choose to adapt, I strongly urge you to practice it ahead of time when you’re not under stress. That way when you need it, and can’t remember anything else to do to calm yourself, you always know that you’ll be breathing.
What techniques do you use when you’re really upset.? Do you find that you’re able to “allow” yourself to just notice your breath, or do you try to force something to happen?
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