If you are feeling wound-up, stressed-out, anxious, and over-wrought, you are certainly not alone. The more people I treat, the more it becomes apparent that many of us are only just holding ourselves and our lives together. As social creatures, we try to present an outward appearance of being happy, calm and in control, but beyond this thin veil there is an excess of worry and nervous tension that impacts our health, our relationships, our very enjoyment of life.
As a homeopath, I use remedies to help people deal with the stresses of life, but each one of us has a tremendous healing ability within ourselves all the time. We can access this through the breath. All of life is sustained by a loving vital force and our breath is the mechanism by which it comes to us. Simply by paying attention to our breathing, we can get in touch with the healing forces of nature.
All deep meditation practices rely upon attention to the breath. A great way to start out meditating is simply to sit comfortably with closed eyes and observe the natural course of the breath as it comes in and then as it goes out. There is no need to change the breath, to make it something other than it is. All we need to do it pay close attention and the mind and body will relax.
It is difficult at first to sit still, and this is normal. Even just sitting for 5 minutes at a time, is a good place to start. It is usually difficult to fix our attention on the breath, or indeed on any one thing for a long period as the mind will keep jumping from thought to thought. This is the infamous “monkey mind” of humans. Part of what we learn in meditation is to accept this fact, and as soon as we recognise that our attention has gone from thinking about the breath to thinking about our laundry list of things to do, we simply bring our attention back to the flow of breath. Fairly soon, our faculties of observation and our ability to focus become stronger.
Through regular meditation, many things become apparant of which we were previously unaware. For example, we find that when we get stuck in a cycle of repetitive thought, our breath becomes much more shallow and can sometimes stop altogether for a short while. This is because the body follows the mind. This is why, when our minds become full of tension and stress, so do our bodies.
When we experience deep meditation, we access a feeling of love, and tremendous healing powers. This is the given state of natural being that we suppress when we get caught up in the mechanistic workings of our industrial social system. We are not made of concrete and steel, but rather flesh and blood. We have needs and rhythms that do not necessarily follow clocks or city grids.
It is a difficult process to try and free ourselves from the habits that we have lived with all of our lives, but it is a most valuable and life-changing pursuit even just to make the attempt. If meditation seems too much of an alien concept, you can do yourself some good by simply stopping throughout the day to observe how you are breathing. When you find your breath is short and stifled, simply breath slowly and deeply, allowing the movement to reach all the way down to floor of your abdomen, fulfilling its natural course.
I do hope that these words will be food for thought, or rather, food for breath. If you give yourself even just a few more good breaths while reading, the writing was more than worthwhile. Be gentle with yourself…