What a day I’m having…
This is so great. After feeling low and bummed out most of yesterday, I got up early this morning and got together with a friend who’s been going through some tough personal stuff.
Fortunately, it’s working out. They’re finding their feet again, after having been knocked for a loop by an ex who showed up out of nowhere about a year ago. Drama. The good news is, they figured out how to keep their 25 year marriage intact, as well as deal with the ex in a positive way that didn’t end up with stalking madness and scenes.
That’s a good thing.
I hate stalking situations. I’ve been in them before — I know… I’m attractive in an intriguing, unattainable sort of way… but if I tell you I’m not interested and ask you to keep your distance, please do. No joke.
Anyway, while we were talking about the ex situation and pondering the general nature of life, the universe, and everything, the topic of breathing came up. Breathing and meditation and focused breath. Zazen. I had told my friend about the connection between breathing and the autonomic nervous system — how slowing your breathing and focusing on your out-breath can slow your heart rate and get you out of a fight-or-flight loop. They were working with that a bit, marveling at how well it works.
It does! It’s amazing. They’ve been using it when they are in tight spots, and I’ve been using it for general chilling out of my somewhat over-active nervous system. Both of us were pretty blown away by how such a simple thing can make such a huge difference.
I can’t begin to tell you how much focused breathing has changed my daily experience. I have been doing it, on and off, for a couple of years. Nothing serious about my commitment, just doing it now and then. I could tell a difference in how I handled stress and tense situations, but aside from that, I had nothing dramatic to report.
One thing I have noticed, though — and this is in conjunction with exercising daily, too, I think. Since I started doing intentional breathing, I have been able to actually relax. This from someone who could NEVER relax before. I always told myself I didn’t want to, but the simple fact is, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t relax. It was physically painful and disorienting. I needed to be ON every waking minute of every day, just to live my life.
Then I started doing this breathing thing in earnest, almost two months ago. I started doing intentional breathing before I’d get out of bed in the morning. 45 breaths. That was it. More would have taken too much time. Less wouldn’t have felt right. 45 breaths was just right. Since then, I’ve noticed a real change in my overall approach to life. I feel more calm, less jumpy, less hair-trigger. It’s the strangest thing, but I can actually chill. I used to get furious with people who exhorted me to “relax…” as though they were belittling my right to get on with my life. But they were just being clueless about my underlying issues with my fight-and-flight-prone system, and they weren’t offering me anything useful to actually help me to relax… to tell me how… to show me how.
Anyway, now I understand how I can do it. It’s stupidly simple, and almost embarrassingly basic. Just breathe — in a focused, intentional way. And do it every day, just like I do my exercise. Focus on it when I feel myself getting out of synch. Do it whenever I have a few minutes. Do it like my life depends on it. Because, in a way, it does.
My quality of life, that is. I could go on indefinitely, all cranked up and wired and go-go-go. But I don’t feel like doing that anymore.
I can relax now. And it actually feels good. Crazy. There’s a ton of stuff going wrong in my life right now, I’m having a lot of joint pain, and I haven’t been sleeping as much as I’d like.
But I feel great. Deep down inside, on a very fundamental level, I’ve got this peace. This feeling of well-ness.