J2P Monday: Breathe

English: By kac's meditation

 meditation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My stress management classes grew out of being a lawyer with the Illinois Governor’s Office in downtown Chicago at the same time I studied meditation and yoga.  I soon found myself adapting what I knew to the office situation, exploring many quick ways to defuse stress.  Over many years of practice I learned that the practices that relax are also key to finding peace.

My number one favorite go-to for stress is breathing.  There are so many ways you can use your breath, even in public, to calm yourself without anyone realizing that you’re having a relaxation moment.

Most Americans breathe very shallowly and suck the stomach and solar plexus areas in on inhalation and release it on exhalation.  Natural, healthy breathing involves inhaling deep into the abs and having the abs/solar plexus/diaphragm area expand as you fill with air.

Exercise:  Many people find this pattern very difficult at first.  To get the feeling for expanding and contracting the solar plexus area, lie flat on the floor and place a book on your solar plexus (area of rib cage, between the navel and the base of your chest).  On each inhalation concentrate on pushing the book up.  On each exhalation focus on lowering the book as the air goes out.  Practice raising and lowering the book as you breathe until it feels easy.

Once you feel that you can inhale into your abdomen, the next step is to learn how to take a full breath.  Inhale into the abdomen and feel that fullness move upward until you have inhaled all the way up to the collar bone.  On exhalation, begin releasing the breath from the top level and continue releasing on down to the solar plexus.  Breathe slow and long and make sure that you feel completely filled with each inhalation and that you’ve emptied all the air completely on exhalation.

Exercise:  Sit comfortably, with a straight back.  Tune in and note how you’re feeling.  Notice the natural pattern of your breath.  Then begin full breath– start counting as you inhale and make your exhalation have the same count.  If you finish the inhale on the count of 8 then count at the same pace to 8 as you exhale and make sure you pace the exhalation to be finished on 8.  Continue for 8-10 breaths, keeping the inhalation and the exhalation even.  Then double the length of the exhalation; for instance, if you count to 6 on the inhale, make the exhale last to the count of 12.  Take 8-10 more breaths with the longer exhalation. Check in again and note any change in how you feel or the pattern of your breathing.

Frequently people who are stressed also hold the breath.  It’s an unconscious habit of sucking in some air and then holding it. If you become mindful of your breathing and use the full breath several times a day, you’ll start shifting out of that pattern.

Any time you feel angry or upset, stop and take some full breaths before you react or say anything.  As soon as you calm down, your view of most situations will change.

Full breath is absolutely the easiest way to calm yourself.  You can practice it any place any time.  Only a few minutes of full breath has an incredibly relaxing effect.  The counting also serves as a focusing device. so each time you stop and count you’re having a little meditation break.

Chanting and Blogging for Peace

Time again to pray or chant for peace.  At least 10 minutes some time on Sunday.  You can find more info on the Collective Prayer Sunday page.

I’ve been thinking about my Bloggers for Peace post and am still mulling.  Not so sure I want to take on the task of leading a group of peace bloggers.  But I am going to commit to writing a post each Monday that presents an exercise or teaching that comes from my Journey to Peace workshops and my stress management workshops.

I’ll create a Journey2Peace page so you can refer to any of the posts at any time with ease.  Check back on Monday for the first entry.

Bloggers for Peace — Missing in Action?

cloud for bluegrass blog

Note:  Yes, I missed a post yesterday so won’t succeed at the goal of posting daily for a month.  My last two or three NaBloPoMo posts have been on the Scribblings blog.

It occurred to me recently that I’d not seen a post from Kozo (formerly blogged on Everyday Gurus), who was one of the leaders of the Bloggers for Peace group.  Nor had I seen a like or comment from him; at one time he regularly stopped by  Went to his blog and got a message that the domain name expired.  Found him blogging elsewhere.

That got me wondering about the Bloggers for Peace group so I went to that site.  It’s still there but there hasn’t been a post in over a year.

The journey to peace is kind of my thing, so I’m really bummed to see that that once vibrant group has apparently fallen apart.  I’m wondering if no one is interested in blogging for peace?  Or are people interested but not in being part of a group of peace bloggers?  Or can we get something started?

I’m considering starting a once a week post using tips and exercises that I’ve shared in my workshops on stress management and the journey to peace.  As I’ve mentioned many times, I absolutely believe the journey to peace begins with each of us.  That we need to expand the number of people who hold the space of peace in the web and then the web will change.  So the focus would be exercises to help individuals find inner peace.

Would love feed back regarding levels of interest in somehow establishing a group of bloggers for peace, suggestions, etc.

Life re-enters… slowly

Somewhere in the last couple of years I hit a wall; in this seemingly endless healing journey I finally felt pushed beyond my limits.  While my health was better than it had been in ages, the constant unwinding process and its concomitant sleep issues got to me.

In a life of ambition and a stick-to-it, get-the-list done mentality, I found myself lacking direction or even a will to figure out, let alone execute, a plan.  In hindsight, I can see it’s a good thing to have let go of that sense of drive and the constant pursuit of goals. But until recently I felt a little uneasy with this new version of myself–not to mention the guilt over lack of accomplishment, etc.

Great friends have occasionally reminded me that this amazing healing journey is an incredible accomplishment and maybe that's all I've been meant to do -- or could do -- for now.  That helps bring me back on track but I tend to forget...

In the last six months or so something has been shifting.  I’ve been slowly chipping away at a long list of procrastinated tasks.  For most people it wouldn’t seem like a lot, but for me it’s been a boost to finally start moving out from under the weight of things not done.  And as I check off one item after another I’m aware of change in process within.  I didn’t wake up one day and decide that it was time.  Change just arrived on some level and I started working away at my list.

In the last few weeks I’ve been on a crazy sleeping pattern.  I rotate around, sleeping at different times, anywhere from 1-1/2 to 6 hours.  Sometimes three times a day I hit a wall of fatigue and really have no choice but to sleep.  Most days the various rounds of sleeping add up to at least 8 and sometimes 10 or 12 hours of sleep. I’ve been so sleep deprived for so long (and before that exhausted from chronic fatigue) it’s amazing to realize I’m finally beginning to feel rested.  Still tired, but getting back to being rested.  And when I’ve had enough sleep I actually feel pretty well.

With rest, my days are slowly beginning to include more things done.  After winding my exercise routine down to nothing I’m exercising a bit every day, slowly getting back strength and flexibility that diminished with neglect.

Glimmers of hope drift up in my consciousness.  A sense that all the years of trying to sort out the overlapping, intertwining health issues are finally coming to fruition and I get to be healthy.

Chanting for peace?

If you’re planning your Sunday, don’t forget to schedule at least 10 minutes to pray or chant for peace.

Collective Prayer Sundays:  In case you’re new, we’re finding 10 minutes at a minimum to pray or chant or meditate (or???) for peace every Sunday.  Details are on the CPS page.  For comments:  you can comment here or on that page or you can go to the Facebook page.

On the NaBloPoMo front, I also posted today on the Scribblings blog and the Wizard101 blog.

Illustration unwinding head and update

Not even half way through the month and I already missed posting.  Started to do one last night and hit a fatigue wall — literally could not keep my eyes open, which lately can translate to falling asleep sitting on the floor with the laptop in my lap…  Decided to save the laptop and go to bed.

I woke up a couple of hours later with muscles yanking around and decided to change my post idea.  It’s been very hard for people to understand this “unwinding head” journey and why it would interfere with sleep.  I’d left my camera sitting nearby, so tried to get a shot while my face was in full-on unwind mode.  I’m not a taker of selfies, so please forgive the poor quality:

Unwinding head 2

 

Nothing you see there is voluntary.  The weird angles of mouth, the uneven nostrils, the yanked up eyebrows — all of that is one example of what happens when the muscles in my face decide it’s time to release a little more.  When it happens the process moves and shifts around, pulling my face into contortions much like the one you see here.  Sometimes this goes on for hours and hours; worst case has been 24 hours.  Does that help the sleep deprivation and difficulty meditating make more sense?

It’s reached a point where every small piece that opens leaves me feeling a degree of ease and comfort around my eyes and/or in my jaw that’s beyond anything I can remember.  It’s pretty exciting, following it step by step into freedom and relaxation.  Also kind of exhausting, restructuring my face.  And, when the muscles behind my eyes are really pulling, a little scary — they’re wrapped around the optic nerve, after all.

More and more I feel how deeply the holding patterns have impacted by emotional state.  For some years I’ve been trying to explain how I often have a sense of holding an emotional state that doesn’t relate to anything that’s going on in my mental state or my current feelings about life.  For all of you with TMJ or near-sightedness (see here for explanation of how that relates to muscles behind the eyes) or super stiff necks, those muscles need to open.

All that tightness blocks the flow of energy.  It affects how you feel on many levels.  Cranio-sacral work is a great way to open those issues; it was how the unwinding started for me.  Whatever modality works for you, I hope you find the way to open those blocks.

Not quite oddly specific gratitude

English: Bars of black Swiss Chocolate. From l...

English: Bars of black Swiss Chocolate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gratitude has been playing an increasingly important role in my life.  I try to wake up every morning and list some things for which I’m grateful.  So when I saw that some of the Nano Poblanos have an “Oddly Specific Gratitude” blog hop going I was interested.  But I couldn’t really understand the instructions and have a hazy idea you have to be tagged before you’re allowed to participate (translation:  rules not clear to me on first read and I’m too lazy to figure it out…).

The idea stuck, though, so I thought I’d make a list of things for which I’ve been grateful lately:

  • La Coppa coffee: when California friends told me the shop was gone I thought that was it.  Just found they still do mail order and I’m working on the first Mill Valley Blend I’ve had in a while.  YUM!
  • Every breath
  • Dark Chocolate
  • I’ve always had a nice roof over my head and plenty of good food to eat
  • Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ice Cream
  • Yoga, the Eight Key Breaths and the Five Tibetan Rites
  • Great friends everywhere I’ve lived – so many places where I can visit people I love
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Getting healthier all the time
  • The scent of summer in Kentucky
  • The musical legacy of Michael Hedges
  • The smell of bread baking
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Peace

Do you have a gratitude list?

Part 2 of the challenge: solutions from the heart

English: Chakra picture produced by AuraStar20...

English: Chakra picture produced by AuraStar2000TM bio-energy sensor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the last day of part 1 of the Heart Solutions challenge and midnight tonight begins part 2.

Thought I’d explain a bit about the background of this idea of moving into heart.  The central focus of Gay Luce’s Nine Gates Mystery School is the idea that we are like flutes with many notes.  Each chakra has its own special note or vibration.  Most of us play only one or two notes instead of using them all.  A great deal of time is spent learning what the energy of each of nine chakras (the usual seven plus feet and transpersonal, which is above the crown) feels like, what situations call for that energy, how to move into that energy, etc.  Each master teacher is brought in for two days on a particular chakra and teaches practices that build energy there.

To be honest, I don’t use it as much as I could, but I try to remind myself that I can choose to shift to a new space.  I use the ability to ground myself by bringing attention to my feet and imagining it reaching down in the earth a lot.  But probably my favorite space to invoke is heart.

There are so many times that it is useful to be able to move into that vibration.  If I’m in a room with people who are arguing or anxious I can move myself into heart and the longer I hold that space, the more the tensions in the room soften.  If I find myself feeling nervous or out of sorts I can consciously bring myself into heart; I don’t think it’s possible to hold yourself in heart space and to be anxious or angry at the same time.

Thanks to the training at Nine Gates, I can move into that space with my attention.  I also often breathe in and out of whatever chakra I want to be in.  In the case of heart, I find the lovingkindness chant opens my heart powerfully so I often say the chant when I want to hold myself at heart level.

The Challenge

Between midnight November 9, 2014 and midnight November 16, 2014, for five days:

  • Sit or lie comfortably with a straight back and close your eyes
  • Think of a problem or an issue in the world about which you have strong feelings (crime, terrorism, environment… you pick)
  • Say the lovingkindness chant* for the world for 10 minutes
  • Take a few deep, even breaths, each inhalation and exhalation taking the same amount of time (i.e. count 10 on inhale, count 10 on exhale)
  • Begin imagining that you’re inhaling into your heart and exhaling from your heart
  • Place one hand on your heart to focus more energy there; you can put it down when you feel you’ve moved into heart space but keep some attention on staying in heart
  • Ask to see what steps you could take to help create a world without this problem or whether you’re meant to do anything at all–make sure you stay in heart space
  • From heart space what do you understand about this problem/issue?  About the best way to create a world that no longer has that problem/issue?
  • When you feel complete, open your eyes
  • As you move through normal life, focus when you think of it on heart space and your vision of a world that doesn’t contain this problem
  • Note any shifts in how you feel about this problem as the five days progress and as you continue to envision a new path

I would love to do a post about this challenge that contains thoughts from some of you.  If you’d like, write 300 words or less about your experience with the exercise and send it to me (yogaleigh at earthlink dot net) by midnight Nov. 16 , I’ll compile however many there are into a post.

* You can say it as a prayer:  “May (who/what-ever) be filled with lovingkindness, may he be well, may he be peaceful and at ease, may he be happy.”

or as an affirmation:  “_______ is filled with lovingkindness, she is well, she is peaceful and at ease, she is happy.”

10 Minutes for Peace

cloud for bluegrass blog

It’s just about that time in my part of the world and for once I’m early enough to catch people on the other side of the world while it’s still Sunday.

If you can find at least 10 minutes, pray or chant or meditate for peace.  Create a ceremony or release something that stands between you and peace.  However you do it, just take a little time to Be Peace, please.

At midnight, part 1 of the current challenge ends.  I’ll be posting the second part of the challenge again tomorrow.

Collective Prayer Sundays:  In case you’re new, we’re finding 10 minutes at a minimum to pray or chant or meditate (or???) for peace every Sunday.  Details are on the CPS page.  For comments:  you can comment here or on that page or you can go to the Facebook page.

Nano Poblano over there… and there…

I’ve managed to post every day so far but I said from the beginning Id have to rotate among my blogs to do it.

So yesterday’s post– a discussion of the role of “About” pages–is on the Scribblings blog, here

And I explored a bit on the new Test Realm for Wizard101 and posted about my first adventures here.

Hamakala Revs for a Hit

Hamakala Revs for a Hit

Gotta go do my chanting for the challenge.

Last day to start Challenge 1

Last week I issued a challenge asking you to do a chanting and meditation practice for five days by Sunday November 9 at 11:59 p.m.  That means Wednesday (which for me, the night owl, is tomorrow since I’m still having Tuesday right now) is the last day to begin if you want to complete it.  If you want to send me 300 words or less about your experience I’ll compile all responses into a post (with links to participants of course).

The challenge:

  • Sit or lie comfortably with a straight back and close your eyes
  • Think of someone with whom you have a challenging relationship or whom you don’t like or whom you consider an enemy
  • Say the lovingkindness chant for that person for 10 minutes
  • Take a few deep, even breaths, each inhalation and exhalation taking the same amount of time (i.e. count 10 on inhale, count 10 on exhale)
  • Begin imagining that you’re inhaling into your heart and exhaling from your heart
  • Place one hand on your heart to focus more energy there; you can put it down when you feel you’ve moved into heart space but keep some attention on staying in heart
  • Ask to see what you can do to create harmony with that person
  • From heart space, what do you understand about this relationship; what does your heart feel about this person?
  • When you feel complete, open your eyes
  • As you move through normal life focus whenever you think of it on heart space and hold the vision of this harmonious relationship
  • Note any shifts you feel toward this person or about this relationship as the five days progress

The version of the lovingkindness chant I use is very short and I vary whether I say it in the traditional prayer form:

May I (or who- or what- ever you are saying it for) be filled with lovingkindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease may I be happy.

or as an affirmation:

I am filled with lovingkindness, I am well, I am peaceful and at ease, I am happy.

Pay attention to whether you feel complete after you’ve done it once or twice.  Note whether the experience remains the same from one time to the next or whether it deepens each day.  Does the answer change as you continue or does the first answer turn out to be the only one you get?  Sometimes I find that repetition helps me go deeper.  Sometimes it doesn’t change.  No right outcome, just notice how it works for you.

New story: it’s okay to be me

I posted a while back about being inundated with references to exploring the stories we’ve allowed to define our lives.  Ever since I’ve been periodically asking myself what story I have that set me on or keeps me on a given path.

This weekend I had some thoughts flash through my head about my childhood as only child, only grandchild, only niece to childless aunt.  Four strong adults surrounding me who all had different ideas about how I should live, what I should do, who/how I should be.  I’ve explored that territory and how I folded inward under those contradictory pressures quite a bit.

This time, though, I suddenly thought.  “But the one thing they could agree on was that I shouldn’t be me.”  And then, “And I should be prevented from living the life I want to live at all costs.”  And boom.  Reverberation throughout my being.  I’m pretty sure if somebody snapped a photo of me in that moment a light would appear above my head.

Long ago as I faced failure after failure at trying to create an income doing things I liked to do, I realized that I believed on some level you can only make money from doing things you don’t like; deeply ingrained family belief.  I’ve done some deep work on releasing that one.

But never before did I see that I also have a story about not being myself that links to a story about it not being okay to do the things I love most. Wow.  So pleased to release that story!

Over the same days I also kept periodically having these weird visions every time I worked with a knife or scissors of slipping somehow and stabbing myself in the eye.  Then while watching figure skating, same thing, this time with a skate blade coming at me.  These are not usually thoughts I have nor do I carry some deep fear of sharp objects so I went inward and asked why I kept having these visions.

Clear as a bell the thought arose, “You were stabbed in the eye in a past life and that’s the piece that’s unwinding behind your eye right now.”  Well okay.  Happy to let go of that story I didn’t know I had.  And I’ll be really delighted to be able to slice an onion without visions of eye stabbing…

I’m particularly enjoying the feeling that both of these stories floated away as soon as I noticed them.  I’ll contemplate that to see if it stays true but so far I feel no need to pound pillows, plan a ceremony, burn a list or any other such means of release.

I may need a while to let “it’s okay to be me” soak in though.

Peace time and challenge for next week

As well as reminding you to set aside some time to Be Peace, a reminder that I’ve issued a challenge for Collective Prayer Sundays:

Between now and midnight on November 9, 2014, for five days (in a row or spaced as you wish):

  • Sit or lie comfortably with a straight back and close your eyes
  • Think of someone with whom you have a challenging relationship or whom you don’t like or whom you consider an enemy
  • Say the lovingkindness chant for that person for 10 minutes
  • Take a few deep, even breaths, each inhalation and exhalation taking the same amount of time (i.e. count 10 on inhale, count 10 on exhale)
  • Begin imagining that you’re inhaling into your heart and exhaling from your heart
  • Place one hand on your heart to focus more energy there; you can put it down when you feel you’ve moved into heart space but keep some attention on staying in heart
  • Ask to see what you can do to create harmony with that person
  • From heart space, what do you understand about this relationship; what does your heart feel about this person?
  • When you feel complete, open your eyes
  • As you move through normal life focus whenever you think of it on heart space and hold the vision of this harmonious relationship
  • Note any shifts you feel toward this person or about this relationship as the five days progress

Watch next week for a reminder about the second part of the challenge; or make your own time table to do both (see here for the whole challenge)