782nd Week: This Breath, This Moment

I ended last week’s practice with a suggestion to come back to the present moment and to this current breath as a way to manage some of the stress of this time in our collective lives.

One of the practices that I used to teach in the Somatic Experiencing® trainings was to invite people to notice how they “add fuel to the bonfires of activation”. Many of us have grown up in cultures that don’t focus on tracking how we allow our thinking to drag us hither and yon, an experience that generates enormous amounts of suffering. In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be able to notice when we increase our suffering by allowing our fear-generated thoughts to dominate our attention and experience.

One of the practices that can be difficult but is powerfully important is to hold the intention to come back to the present moment, to the breath you’re taking right now, and to focus awareness on this breath, on this moment. In terms of self-talk, one of the things that’s helpful to say while doing this practice is something along the lines of, “In this moment, right here and right now, I’m okay enough.” 

The practice is just what it is: returning to the present moment, to the present breath. To make the practice more powerful for yourself, though, it’s helpful to find just the right statement for you. Above, I’ve written the one I use, but it may not resonate for you. Play with these statements until you find the one that allows your body to relax a bit, that allows whatever level of fear or activation you have cooking to cool down a bit. 

The statement may change from time to time but it’s important that it supports the reality that all we ever really have is this moment and this breath. Going off into imagined “what-if’s” doesn’t tend to serve us. It generally only adds to whatever fears we’re engaging in any given moment. Making useful plans, generating positive options is another matter. That can be very helpful. This is different—what I’m talking about here is how we allow our fears to run away with us with the thousand and one thoughts about the terrible things that might happen to us.

As you work with this practice, notice where your body responds to coming back into this moment. Notice if there’s any softening or letting go that accompanies your return to the present moment. Then, as you become aware of the next breath, notice what happens if you invite your awareness to follow the out-breath all the way down to the bottom of the breath and allow yourself to rest there, to linger for a bit. Then, again notice what’s happening in your body, paying particular attention to any areas of softening, letting go, or developing ease. Be sure not to demand these shifts. Simply notice them if they arise and allow yourself to linger with sensations that convey that you are settling a bit.

Because of the nature of this virus, if you are having difficulty breathing, allow yourself to imagine the breath, to imagine following the out-breath down to the bottom. Don’t ask yourself to try to work with your breath in any way that adds to the challenges you’re already facing.

If you find areas in your body that continue to be tight, constricted, or otherwise uncomfortable, explore inviting them to notice the areas of your body that are settled or that are somewhat softer. You might also explore what happens when you invite an uncomfortable area in your body to notice that the rest of your body surrounds and supports that uncomfortable part. 

There’s no particular response to have, no place you have to arrive. This is all by way of an invitation to bring your awareness back to this moment, to this breath. Please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion. Curiosity moves toward, whereas fear clutches inward into constriction and tension.

Also please remember to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise. When we ask our mind to do what we need and want it to do, there is sometimes a response that is the opposite of what we seek. That’s fine—it’s just more evidence that there will be great benefit in learning not to allow the mind to be in the driver’s seat of where you place your attention and awareness.

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