Tag Archives: relaxation

… breath – elements – purification – relaxation …

We’re first forced to catch our breath when the umbilical cord is cut. In that instant the lungs must exchange liquid for air. Some wise midwives promote, when appropriate, not to cut the cord immediately, but allow time to soften the transition for the infant and enable a gentle new bonding with mother.

Once separated, we’re alone, but if welcome and made to feel safe we hardly pay attention to our breath unless its rhythm is upset, usually through physical strain, excess tension, anxiety, or unresolved anger and resentment.

I wrote shortly about breath before, in the context of bio-rhythms. If this interests, here’s the link.

With this post I’ll share a practice I’m presently in need of myself,  a conscious breathing ritual with a focus on the elements of earth, water, fire, air – and the subtle element of ether. The easy-to-learn sequence, aided by concentration and imagination, bestows relaxation and renewed energy. Parallels to this practice can be found in ancient spiritual traditions. The Sufi version below is thought to derive from Greek mystery schools. Unlike some forced breathing techniques, it is safe to use alone.

A purifying practice of breathing through the elements. Repeat the breath for each element five times  and  allow the colour to suffuse your cells …

EARTH … imagine the colour yellow (like desert dunes, or wheat fields)

Breathe in through the nose – count four

Pause one count

Exhale through nose – count six – imagine a horizontal spreading movement.

WATER … imagine a blue-green colour (like a lagoon or a river)

Breathe in through the nose –count four

Pause one count

Exhale through mouth – count eight – imagine a downward flowing movement

FIRE … imagine a golden red colour (like a sunset, or a flame)

Breathe in through the mouth – count four

Pause one count

Exhale through nose – count ten – imagine an upwards rising movement

AIR … imagine a transparent blue colour (like a pale sky)

Breathe in through the mouth – count four

Pause one count

Exhale through mouth – count eight – imagine a dispersing movement

ETHER (optional)

Image a transparent mauve colour

Breathe in through nose – count four

Pause one count

Exhale through nose – count twelve

To ground your energy, return once more to the earth-breath. You may want to ignore the counting for the out-breaths, to begin with. The basic idea is to allow more time for breathing out, until the body naturally draws in a new breath.

*    *    *   To expand the imagination, here some more notes in relation to the elements:

The Earth Element
The early Christian hermits, living alone in the desert, used to concentrate on the earth’s magnetism as a way of restoring their vitality during long vigils. Native American elders have said that the loss of a sense of relationship and communion with the earth is the main cause of psychological and physical imbalances. Standing or sitting, feel like a tree with roots extending firmly and deeply into the earth. Feel the strength and magnetism of the earth. Breathe in through the nose and out through the nose, not forcing the breath.

Imagine drawing healing power through the soles of your feet (if standing) or the bottom of your spine (if sitting). You may have felt the healing power of the earth in your feet while walking barefoot outdoors or in your hands when working in a garden. Try to sense a subtle reality, a crystalline lattice-like structure, behind the denser aspects of the physical plane. The earth is not a singular organism, but is part of its solar system and part of a galaxy …

As you exhale, release your tiredness, disharmony and agitation. Now concentrate on the magnetic field of your body, similar to that of a magnet. Feel as though you are aligning your own field to the magnetic field of the earth, the way that iron filings align around a magnet. When magnetic power is weak, the iron filings are in disarray. When the power is strong, the filings align in symmetric, harmonic patterns.

The Water Element
The breath of the water element brings a sense of flow, of vitality and purity, and helps unleash creativity. It is also useful in breaking free from habitual thinking patterns, and flowing around obstacles rather than hitting them head on. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. You might imagine yourself immersed in a mountain stream. Feel the drops of water penetrating your cells, dripping off of your fingertips. Feel water reaching your chest and heart, helping to loosen any tightness and obstruction there. Feel energized and renewed, again focussing on those parts of the body that are in need of healing, and those that lack life energy and vibrancy. Concentrate on the purity of a crystal clear lake or stream, high up in the mountains. Let yourself become the water, and let the qualities of purity, life energy and power flow into your immediate environment.

The Fire Element                                                                                                                                               The breath of the fire element is a quickening. It sparks inspiration and is useful when you feel drowsy and dull. Breath in through the mouth, hold the breath for a moment and then breathe out through the nose. On the inhalation, imagine fanning a fire in your solar plexus. Purse your lips and draw in a thin stream of air. As you draw in, visualize the embers of the fire glowing. Then hold the breath momentarily and bring your attention to a few inches above the solar plexus. Exhale through the heart, imagining that you are radiating golden sunlight.

On the inhalation, evoke your aspirations; your desire to be authentic; to make your life meaningful and worthwhile; to stand up for what you believe in. On the exhalation, radiate light as if from a miniature sun in your heart. Subject your self-doubt, cynicism, addictive patterns or resentments to the fire. Avoid making pledges you won’t keep. Simply clarify your intention and allow the purification process, instead of using will power to change things.

The Air Element
Breathe in through the mouth and out through the mouth. The breath of the air element relates to freedom, ecstasy and transcendence. Imagine yourself like an eagle perched high on a mountain. Feel the wind ruffling your feathers, blowing through all your pores. Feel the coolness and freshness of the air. Soar upwards on the currents of air. On the inhalation, feel yourself buoyant and free, like a zephyr crossing a lake and lifting upwards. On the exhalation, allow yourself to reach out beyond the boundaries of the body. Let your being disperse with the wind, and let your consciousness reach out into the cosmos. Enjoy a sense of vastness and, if it helps, visualize vast landscapes, such as a mountain, canyon, or the starry night sky.

*    *    *   After you completed the purification breaths, reflect upon the effect of the elements taken together. Separately each of the breaths emphasizes different forces and qualities in our being, together they bring about a sense of wholeness. According to your own affinities, you may feel the need to place more emphasis on one or another element in order to attain greater balance.

For me this is the WATER breath.

Also – I admit I frequently fall asleep to this … consciousness is wherever consciousness is placed, and what travels on our breath travels either mindlessly or with intention.

 ‘Thoughts are beings that generate … One thought of kindness gathers a thousand beings of love and kindness around one.’  – Hazrat Inayat Khan

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… musings of a neglected teddy bear …

She brought me down from the attic this morning and gave me a good bashing and brushing at the back door, where the wind scattered my accumulated dust. She had no idea why she suddenly wanted me, the transitional object, around. But I know.

I make her smile – something to do with face muscles relaxing. And she needs a perk. Glued to the news, she’s expecting a revelation of meaning from the madness around the globe. She tells herself to ignore the surreal headlines that flit across her laptop screen, to no avail. As if that was not enough, her intense curiosity in AI and its implications on society, can take up her mornings. It may be because a new, man-made race is the theme of ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors.’

And I used to think teddy bears were the pinnacle of man-made intelligence.

Though she can’t remember, she valued me time ago, to be held by her therapy clients in need of hugging. How cool is that? Then, one day, I was unceremoniously replaced by a trickster rag-doll, apparently more successful in bringing up suppressed psychic material – alarmingly uncool.

For now I’m redeemed. Everyone knows that teddies are brilliant listeners. I nod and never talk back, avoiding all misunderstandings.

Her son used to benefit from an associate of mine. Such shame he was a rare antique, and had to be sold.

Not that my presence fools her. She may be a good listener to her clients, but not to her own heart in these bewildering times, which is why she brought me down from the attic. I listen and open spaces for self-reflection. Just think of the waste of all the other teddies dusting away in attics.

She learned that to really understand how another person feels, their experience has to be felt in her own heart. There is nothing to be done. She’s a crushed angel and needs to feel her own bewilderment deeply to be of use to anyone.

That said – I’m happy to be here, in this warm space of reflection.

She says hello to all crushed angels. There must be many of you out there, given the consistent visits to a post of this poem by Hafiz from May 2015.

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… mood swings …

A strong spirit can be dampened, sometimes at birth, sometimes through a later trauma, but with care, it can also be nurtured and strengthened. And like an effective immune system, it helps us to adjust imbalances in mind and body. The link between spirit and the immune system tends to be ignored when resources go into fighting the seeming culprit, historically blamed for imbalances, the intruder. True listening and welcoming a dialogues with the enemy are rare.

Churt Sculptor Park

Churt Sculptor Park

A recent Health Survey reports that nearly half of England’s population is on prescription drugs. And today’s news highlight once more that super bugs are on the rise. Factors that dent the spirit are not taken into the equation. When one observes how some of the dehumanising complexities of our systems wear down the dignity of people, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that depression is a sane reaction when there seems to be no light ahead.

Medicine is often the only immediate way a severe depression can be eased. It should however concern everyone that depression is on the increase, a development which, in my view, genetic markers acknowledged, expresses the collective state of our society and, again in my view, how the most sensitive people carry the imbalances of the system for the rest of us.

I’m a rebel, and while severe depression evades me, I experience mood swings. Once in a while I’m struck by a state of futility – about hyped-up news selling fake realities, the lunacy of ignoring the gulf between the rich and poor in the world, the exploitation of planetary resources, the abuse of personal data, cold callings, small businesses and communities disappearing, and the shopping mania in supermarkets. Add to this a personal loss, or simply an accumulation of irritants, and you have potential triggers for depression.

When something feels wrong in my heart, I bolt. Yet integrity is costly when security, health, loyalties, disillusionment and emotional dependencies are involved, then ‘NO’ carries risks. Stories told in many counselling practices focus on pressure at work, incessant changes of procedures , bullying and subtle manipulation. Complaints backfire because managers are themselves under stress. There follow negative loops of thoughts, the inability to relax, lingering anxieties, and also bursts of anger. Underlying these stories is a sense of powerlessness that brings about psychological regression, which can be an opportunity to find a gentle ‘yes’ for oneself, were one able to bear the consequences. Young or old, alone or in relationship, there is often a sense of feeling trapped, despair, a flattening of vitality, joy and compassion for oneself and others.

P1060863 smallerDepression seems to mark our time and is in dire need of acknowledgement. Besides medication and therapies, an honest assessment is vital – of how simple human needs for creativity, and expectations for love and appreciation are frustrated. I’m lucky in that I sleep and dream well, and generally recover from my mood swings. Apart from smoking rollups and drinking wine to relax, in moderation, I also have a default mode, where the world turns not so much unreal, but surreal.

P1060866 smallerMy spirit of independence refuses to be intimidated by the collective idea of what is real. I find beauty in small things and unique moments that give me pleasure. For example, I see the shadow of socks on the washing line and candles waving to each other, or the cucumber salad dressing resembling a river delta, or ancient trees … that’s the drift …

I switch to patterns in other than economy sponsored realities. I dream up stuff.

Being curious, I’d like to know about your ways of dealing with mood swings, or depression, or anxieties instilled by the media. How do you manage the rapids of sensational information? Do you have secrets of becoming? Do you swim against the established order or do the unexpected? Do you have moments of pleasure? Do you have gifts of resilience to share?

‘All we see is a false capture of being: a time grid.’ Fazal Inayat-Khan.

Based on statistics, I predict that the sun will rise tomorrow.

http://aeon.co/magazine/health/is-preventive-medicine-its-own-health-risk/

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… the shock of disorientation – the unknown …

Change is the only reliable constant. I sometimes wished I could pledge my life to a convincing reality. For me, what is derived from facts or beliefs in our culture often lacks a vital ingredient – the acceptance of the continuous process of harmony unfolding from cycles of necessary chaos – so I watch the river flowing and imagine stories and create worlds.

four weeks old

Though my childhood had its trials, I was lucky to be held during my early years, both physically and metaphorically, which gifted me with a sense of basic trust, a right to exist, a right to question, and a playful irreverence. Maybe this is why my little wisdoms play with facts and beliefs, dust the inner mirror, value what is emerging, the ever higher level of coordinates of truth and beauty, like a trajectory of the love I received.

For someone not held at birth, change can be dreaded, or seen as a means of escape from an unsafe environment. What we all have in common, is a longing for sufficient containment, and periods of relaxation.

Some years ago, I walked up the stairs of the Social Services centre where I worked. The building had two sections of offices that mirrored each other in design, with exactly the same stairway on each side. A lift in the middle accesses both sections. Being lazy, I usually took the lift up to the third floor, though I liked to take the stairs down on the far side. On this particular day I wanted exercise, and time to ponder a logistic problem. Steeped in thought, I headed for the staircase in sight. Arriving at my floor, I entered the office with its familiar layout and was hit by a sense of total disorientation. Wrong, all wrong, on my desk sat a row of bright, fluffy soft toys, not the company I had round my computer. In a split-second I noticed other irregularities, the quality of light – a smell of heady perfume. The entire atmosphere in this office was alien, the wrong music – alien to my expectations.

 

M. C. Escher

First thought – I must have time-jumped, returned from the past – my mother often marvelled at my vivid imagination. More laser-fast thoughts – perceptions are tenuous and dreamlike reality is self-made and its boundaries are fragile. Calling in episodes of lucid dreaming, my fear switched to wonder, until I grasped the situation. With my thoughts dwelling in abstract orbs, I had walked up the wrong set of stair, expecting to see my desk, which was however in the other, mirror-part of the building.

Being sandwiched between two realities, the expected and the unexpected, the cognitive familiar and the unknown, tends to cancel time for an instant, long enough to escape the compulsion of identifying with objects or thoughts. Shocked awake, the mind is free and spacious, a delightful state.

 

Disorientation, if tolerated, can bring a sudden glimpse of unidentified consciousness in action.

Not discounting trance and meditation, or the vast variety of personal experience – mind and body work in synergy if we loosen up our ideas and learn to relax. In synergy the combined intuitive intelligence of body/brain and the collective mind brings us into resonance with a reality beyond our comprehension – the reflection of a universal order. Not a miracle.

As a child I once dived into a swimming pool. The brilliant sky was of the same blue as the tiles that lined the floor and walls of the pool, which would have been fine had I not opened my eyes under water – the blue world overwhelmed. I lost all sense of direction and panicked. With no way out, I instinctively shut my eyes, which calmed my racing heart and allowed my muscles to relax. My body naturally floated upwards.

I later learned, during experiential Sufi practices, that apt intentional exposure to situations depriving us of habitual coordinates, can prepare us to face change, the unknown, with less stress and more equanimity.

Have you had moments of disorientation – even if it was putting a cup to your lips expecting coffee and tasting tea?

*    *    *

The theme of ‘disorientation’ came up after recent posts by a blogger friend, Joe Linker (see blog roll), on Buckminster Fuller – his thoughts on synergy are powerfully relevant today – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

… We are now synergetically forced to conclude that all phenomena are metaphysical; wherefore, as many have long suspected — like it or not — ‘life is but a dream’ …

Buckminster Fuller

So we might as well dance … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXpaI5IMQsg&feature=related

 

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… the wild horse of the mind …

I thought I open the window a bit to what I’m immersed in, drafting the sequel to Course of Mirrors, called Shapers. Another mythic adventure, and more. The short piece below is not representative of the tense action this story has plenty of, but depicts a pivotal moment. The scenery is  Eire, where time-zones overlap. In 2550 AD the island is called Sax, where Rhonda, the super-controlling power, cast their misfits.  In the excerpt below, Tilly (Cassia in Ana’s story) has arranged for Cara and Mesa to meet in Kerry during the 1970s.

The theme touches on the creative process. Something for my writer friends. I welcome any feedback to the draft.

*    *    *

Tilly’s ruined estate on the Kerry peninsula was one among many places around the world where past and future began to cross or run parallel during the 1970s. Not all drop-outs travelling through Derrynane were aware of the phenomenon. Those open to the new wavelengths either tuned in, or received no more than garbled white noise. The going slogan was – love, don’t think – though it should have been – love and think – and stay grounded. These were turbulent times. Traditionalists abhorred the breaking free of conditioning. Leaps into the unknown frightened them.

This is Cara’s time, and these are her thoughts: Personal myth is a complex self-creation, mainly unconscious, but less so once we replace the postulates we inherited with our own, and are drawn to our psychic kin. Every night when the body rests we visit beings in other spheres. We may discount these sojourns as dreams unrelated to our daily existence. Yet bridging occurs when we value inner dynamics and re-story the associative symbols of images. Resonance momentarily fills the void between the known and the unknown, and meaning is assigned to events. Some good people trust in God, but then abnegate their creativity. Are we not the desire of a divine will? Are we not the ears, eyes, nose, hands and feet of a universal intelligence, of which we are the deed? Does not our speech derive from one sound? And is love not the creed that breathes all things and directs the movement of all spheres? I don’t understand the need to prove or disprove a universal intelligence that is within and all around us. The world I create is imperfect and suffers from on-going flux. But I can bring my small flame to its shadows.

Now that Cara’s myth caught up with her, and she was confronted with the net of postulates she had cast into the future. She found herself challenged to engage with what she animated, because she was animated by it.

Gutch spotted Tilly talking to Cara and Mesa in the hall. He was bursting with pleasure. ‘I found my clan,’ he said. ‘This place is teeming with talented actors. We’re going to do some magic theatre. Are you joining us?’

‘I need to take care of something,’ Tilly said. Can you keep an eye on Gart?’

‘That devil had some weird conversion trip and is sound asleep under the table.’

‘Excellent. Let him sleep.’

When Cara and Mesa arrived at the cottage across the atrium, Tilly had lit a fire in the hearth. A nest of chairs invited them, and the smell of fresh coffee. ‘Have some,’ she said, ‘pointing to a steaming pot, ‘and there’s chocolate cake, too.’ Mesa soaked up the atmosphere, transported to Ana’s world, reminded of Cassia’s kitchen. Tilly placed a small leather pouch in Cara’s lap. ‘Here, forged by fire, polished by the sea, a gift of remembrance.’

Cara opened and turned the pouch. A black stone fell into her hand – smooth as marble, yet radiating warmth and shining in the glow of the fire. ‘Ana’s talisman!’

‘Yes, and you might as well own it.’ Tilly paused, gazing into the flames. ‘I have a favour to ask from you, for Mesa’s benefit.’

‘What favour?’ Cara poured cups of coffee for everyone, dished out giant slices of chocolate cake and added a dollop of whipped cream to each.

‘Your future, Cara, has come to visit you. Mesa returned to assimilate what was lost to her. With Ana’s story you re-animated her soul. Certain events in history require beings to return, to right things or bring a message.  Mesa will take on her role in the odyssey of the Ypocs. And she’s going to be the narrator of your story, Cara.’

‘Huh, this takes a leap of the imagination. I haven’t even smoked the weed.’

Tilly smiled. ‘You know what it takes. Uncovering a personal myth is different from writing a Hollywood script. To help Mesa to re-connect with random creative processes, I want you to explain to her in as much detail as possible how your mind works.’

Cara heaved a breath. ‘The idea sucks every thought from my head.’

‘That’s a good start.’

‘All right, here goes a slice of random micro processing … Momentarily stuck with a paragraph, I remember to stretch my legs. In the kitchen I snatch a yogurt from the fridge. I notice a sticky shelf – mental note – clean it soon. Dark clouds gather outside, looks like rain. I run up to the bathroom and close the window. On the way down, I see dust-clouds on the stairs – mental note. Heading for the desk I stop by the fridge again because I’m now really hungry. I prepare a sandwich – mental note – put butter on shopping list. I use the loo – mental note – toilet paper is running out. Telephone rings. The answer machine kicks in. Just as well, I’ll return the call later – mental note. A letter that needs sending sits next to the phone, I put a stamp on it – mental note – post it. A fly is trapped in the window. I release the fly and study a tree out front that leans over and needs pruning. I quickly assess which branch to cut – mental note. Off to my desk. Passing a shelf I spot the book I couldn’t find earlier. What a relief! I plonk it on my research file and am reminded of an article I need to chase – mental note. The sun shines again. I open the backdoor and listen to the birds. Grass needs cutting – mental note. Finally back with my paragraph the writing flows, sheer bliss. At a natural break in the narrative I decide to go shopping. In the car I have an epiphany relating to a character in my story, to do with birds – mental note. The walker I pass reminds me to visit a certain person – mental note. I recall this person collects small antique tins. I could find him a present – mental note. I think of metaphors, how obsessions, like collecting tins, are really personalised teachings – mental note.’

Mesa had listened with rapt attention. ‘What happens to all the mental notes?’

‘Ha, ha … they’re promises. They’re torture. They heap up. They demand execution. My way to deal with accumulative pressures and gain time to focus on my writing is through procrastination. I’ve become patient with nagging voices. They’re not jailors. They’re easily humoured until the time is right for a blitz. Then I act fast and achieve a great deal in a short time, happy to have cleared the space.

‘But why give these mental notes the power of demands over you? Mesa asked.

Cara glanced at Tilly, who had taken up knitting, as if the dialogue bored her.  What was her agenda? Was this really for Mesa’s benefit? Tilly smiled and said, ‘Go on.’

‘It started out as compulsive pattern. I was conditioned to respond to the needs of my environment, and to maintain order. There are exceptions. Some days, it could be the weather, a dream, the stars … from the moment I open my eyes everything flows effortlessly. My brain is relaxed and I attract harmonious thoughts, like I’m fine-tuned to a subtler station, beyond the busy bandwidth of neurotic naggers. The tuning can be learned. It’s like taming a wild horse. I can actually do it, when necessary. But I like letting the horse run wild. I find wild things that way.’

‘We have different conditioning,’ Mesa said. ‘From early on I was trained to tame my mind, to let it rest like a still pond, or focus thoughts like laser beams. Then free play was introduced, disrupting Rhonda’s order, and all went wrong for the Ypoc.’

‘Aha! I bet you didn’t have to juggle a deep conflict, and oppose a controlling father.’

Tilly dropped her knitting. ‘This gets interesting. It’s what Mesa came back for.’

* * *

Apologies: The origin of the image of the horse is unknown to me.  Many thanks to the photographer.

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… biofeedback & the mystery of breath …

Ill-health suits numerous corporations whose massive revenues rely on it. The hypocrisy of this situation is obvious. Most ill-health develops through a lack of rhythm between activity and relaxation, and the lack of places where people can find a calm environment and the privacy to relax. To start with, imagine the benefits if relaxation were to become a main subject taught in schools … ? Children would learn that everything travels on the breath.

http://sufimessage.com/eastern-rose-garden/mystery-of-breath.html

Biofeedback has been known in the East for thousands of years. Hindu practices like Yoga and Pranayama, for example, are essentially biofeedback methods. Some yogis are known to achieve control over their physiological processes.

One of the instruments developed in the West to measure physiological processes is the electroencephalographEEG. It demonstrates the amplitude of electrical activity in the brain. The feedback provides awareness that enables the manipulation of physiological functions at will, including brainwaves, muscle tone, heart rate and pain perception. One of the benefits of biofeedback is that it can improve psychological health, since the physiological changes occur in conjunction with changes to thoughts and emotions.

By consciously experiencing the relationship between body and mind sensations, desired changes can be maintained. The method has been used successfully with groups of young people to improve management of anger. I don’t know why it is not applied more widely.

*    *    *

A disclaimer – this post is meant to draw attention to biofeedback, no more. If you are interested in this subject and want more precise information please explore relevant sources of information.

Below are some basic states of consciousness. 

Beta State (13 -20Hz)

Day-to-day state of attention, orientated to the outside world, geared to focused, practical tasks. Higher than 20 Hz tends to produce hyper vigilance and anxiety.

Alpha State (7.8-14Hz)

A level reached during relaxation, when stress lowers, the pulse slows and blood pressure drops. According to the quality of consciousness, intuition operates, and subconscious information can be accessed, like childhood memories or past lives. Inspirational and creative moments are more frequent. It is also the state just before falling asleep and just after waking.

Theta State (3.2-7.8 Hz)

This level of deep relaxation is good for regression. Images and emotions can surface vividly. Creative imagination, self-reflection and cognitive processing of perception become possible. There can be a feeling of inner peace and being at one with the world. When a detachment from the physical body is sought, pain ceases to exist. REM sleep dreaming and hypnosis belong in this state.

Delta State (0.1-3.2Hz)

Some mystics and intuitive people can access this level while awake, in other words, they are able to remain conscious during deep meditation. Normally this state happens only during deep sleep, when unconscious or during a coma.

 

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