Thursday, March 4, 2010
Inspire Emotional Release Through Breath
Inspire (in spi r') v. 10. to take air into the lungs in breathing; inhale. 11. Archaic a. to infuse (breath, life, etc.) by breathing (usually fol. by into) b. to breathe into or upon.
Many of us know the traditional definition of inspire; to produce or arouse; but we often forget about the archaic definition which means quite simply, to breathe into. The act of breathing itself is inspiration. Conscious breathing has the ability to connect us with our bodies and release emotions we are physically suppressing. So many of us hold our emotions so tightly in our bodies. Quite literally, we don't give these feelings any breathing room. We stuff down our emotions by disassociating and disconnecting. We each do this in different ways.
Some people use food or the avoidance of eating to disconnect from the feelings welling up inside of them. Others turn to substances like drugs and alcohol to numb out emotions that may feel too overwhelming to face. Some blind themselves to their inner realities with consumerism... shopping as a way to obtain material things to define worth and fill the void inside. We disconnect in a multitude of ways... tuning out with TV, the computer, video games, overwork, excessive exercise. In a very real sense we have moved away from an organic life experience toward a virtual reality. All of these means of coping are like slapping a band aid on a gaping wound. It doesn't stop the hemorrhaging... the bleeding out of our life force. The more we check out like this, the more our unaddressed feelings tend to build inside of us, creating pressure. This pressure leads to stress. That stress can impact our lives negatively on multiple levels.
Stress is the greatest factor in dis-ease. So much of our health and well-being relies on our ability to effectively manage our stress. Additionally, though we may think we are saving ourselves suffering by dropping the curtain on our emotions, we are actually breeding dysfunction which only further impacts our sense of discontent and lack of personal fulfillment. When we cut ourselves off at the head and sever ourselves from our bodies and emotions, those feelings remain. They haven't disappeared simply because we are not willing to look at them. As layer upon layer of unacknowledged emotion piles up on one another, our inner unrest reaches the boiling point. That pent-up energy must be released before we implode. Often this seeps out into our lives in damaging ways, affecting relationships, work, health, and our emotional/spiritual well-being.
It is very important that we hold space for all of our emotions, that we learn to invite our feelings in to sit for a spell and teach us something about ourselves. Most people resist emotional work because they feel like they have to figure it out, make it 'right' and possibly dredge up painful past memories that they would just assume leave behind in the dust of days gone by. This is a misconception. We don't have to sort out our feelings, categorize them, make sense of them, validate them, or even know where they originate from. There is a big difference between honoring our emotions and wallowing in feelings that can keep us stuck in life. Feeling our emotions does not mean we must convert to the 'religion' of martyrdom. It is about releasing what is weighing us down so we can build a bridge and get over it. It is when we cling so tightly to our emotions, blocking their expression, that we are keeping ourselves locked and bound by the shackles of the past. Feeling paves the road to freedom.
Sometimes when we open ourselves to feeling we make a distinct connection. We realize the emotion is related to some event in our lives that we didn't fully process and integrate, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, emotions surface and they seem to have no basis in rationality. They appear to spring up from nowhere. In those moments it is vital to trust that sometimes the body knows something we are unaware of. Our job isn't to 'fix' it, just to feel it. Feeling fully creates the necessary release that helps us move forward in our lives. It's not complicated and it doesn't require years of wading through emotional muck while lying on a psychiatrist's couch. In fact, the more we can be present and hold space for our feelings, the more easily they pass through us unencumbered. The sooner we get to get on with life. There is no way to avoid feeling. We are having a life experience and experience entails that we must feel.
How do we hold space for our emotions and reconnect when we are so used to checking out? The answer is quite simply, through inspiration. Through breathing, we become inspired and this facilitates the physical release that allows our bodies to surrender what they have been holding on to so tightly. It is amazing how releasing our emotions through breath can create so much space inside of us. There is a distinct broadening of our inner horizons when we allow our emotions expression through inspiration. It can be a powerful experience. We truly have the ability to heal and embody release simply by using our breath.
When we own our emotions we move away from reacting, toward responding. Reactiveness comes from an unaware space. When we are disconnected from our emotions we often move into reactiveness by blaming and judging, rather than by owning our feelings and expressing them in balanced ways. This only causes the divide to deepen and prevents us from moving forward in our lives and relationships. Reactions are impulsive. They are highly-charged. Our buttons get pushed and we head into blame mode because we want to make others/life situations 'wrong'. It is easier to disconnect through blaming than to come into direct contact with the intolerable feelings that get provoked by challenging situations and relationships. When we react, we give away our power. We come from a space of fear and defensiveness. This only creates more of what we don't want in our lives... isolation, disconnection, adversity, dysfunction.
Responding is quite different. It is recognizing in the moment that difficulty enters that there is a choice... to close ourselves off in reactiveness, remaining in our familiar comfort zone, or to move into a space of receptivity and understanding which opens the door to more meaning and personal growth. Responding comes from a secure space of authenticity and love. In order to respond, we have to be able to connect with our emotions while also respecting the feelings of others. If we can tune in the instant disruption enters, make contact with our feelings while also connecting with the feelings of others, we are opening ourselves to responding. Responding entails that we listen more, not only to ourselves, but to those around us. When we respond, we are stepping into our power. We are owning our emotions and relating to other's positions without feeling threatened. We understand that all feelings are valid and deserve respect and recognition, including those that run contrary to our own. We each deserve to have space held for our emotions. A balanced life is built on a foundation of responding, not reacting.
In order to come from a place of responding we need to learn how to feel fully. This requires us to come back into our bodies... to have an in-body experience. One of the easiest ways to do this is by connecting with our breath. The next time you find yourself moving into reactiveness... becoming mired in fear, anxiety, defensiveness, judgment, criticism or blame, take a moment to breathe.
First, locate where the feeling is in your body. Is it in your chest? Your belly? Your hands or feet? Once you discern where the feeling is in your body bring some awareness into that physical space. What does it feel like in your body where you are holding this emotion? Is it tight and constricting? Is it fluttering or trembling? Is it hot or cold? Full or empty? Does the feeling have a color? Really get into your body and get in touch. Once you have connected with the full scope of the feeling, begin to breathe into the location in your body where you are holding this sensation. Imagine your breath traveling inside that space, around it, above it and below it. Keep breathing into the area where your body is holding this feeling.
Sometimes we are physically constricting our emotions to the extent that we have cut off circulation, preventing nurturing energy from coming in. This is evident when the breath gets 'stuck' and is unable to reach the physical location in the body where the feeling is being held. This signals that there is something we are holding onto so very tightly. If we keep breathing into that tightness we can release the obstruction and allow our feelings to surface. The breath inspires and unlocks the feeling. Often, you will experience a physical sensation of release. This can manifest in many ways and will be different for each person. There is no 'wrong' way to experience this release. Trust what comes forward.
For some, the tears may begin to flow. Others may notice a shaking happening within, almost like a soul rattle dislodging years of pent-up emotion with its vibration. You may even notice that you release the feeling audibly through sighs, moans, or other sounds. Stay out of judgment. Don't bother trying to make sense of it. Let it be and trust in the body's wisdom to know exactly what you need for release.
You can use your breath to release any emotion. If you have a feeling of being cut-off from your inner world, take some time to come back into your body and breathe. Allow the inspiration to empower you so you can get clear on what your true needs are and can more effectively address your concerns. Feeling is healing. The more we can reconnect with ourselves, the more we move into response and find our entire beings coming into balance. Let yourself be inspired today.