This article was shared with permission from our friends at elephantjournal.com.
This morning I was shaking, scared, and I felt that I may not be strong enough for my life.
I brought one hand to my stomach and one hand to my heart and I remembered, Here I am. Here. There is no tomorrow. Yesterday, gone. What I must handle is only this.
Then, I inhaled.
Right hand on belly, left hand on heart. I did this practice while still in bed—I followed the rise and fall of one breath—even though I wanted to stop breathing and scream. The arrival and departure of a present state had to be seen.
With the intensity of anxiety and depression, it seems things must be more complicated than this—I have found the contrary. It’s just one breath—one breath that builds on the next, eventually creating a whole life. The whole comes. Lots will go. If we allow one breath to be our anchor, we will be okay.
This morning I was shaky and scared because I had big questions. Was my path a good one? Who exactly was I? My mind wanted to problem-solve…sly depression and sneaky anxiety leaned in.
My head became confused. My chest sang out lightly, “Love you,” in an attempt to soothe. The mind’s neurosis spits and the heart counters…“I love you.”
This is when a sacred practice becomes useful—when we need to remember we are alright. This body, heart, breath and yes, one anxious, wannabe-depressed mind, all fine.
There are things stronger than our thoughts: reality. Depression and anxiety are experiences we encounter. They come when we head into future worry. They arrive when we dive into past grief.
The quick flashes and swirling circles of hyper-arousal and the deep, moist tunnels of withdrawal are part of being human. This is a life-range. Neither needs eliminating.
However, getting stuck for long in one state is unpleasant. We are energetically fluid beings. When our energy is moving, we feel good. If we try to figure out our emotions, we become stalled.
When we treat our experience like a problem, it becomes one.
Anxiety and depression act like a black hole for emotional and psychological space. They make us believe we are only them. Fortunately, that is not so. We are humans who feel joy, love, and ease—along with deep sadness, loneliness, and heartache.
We don’t usually try to solve our pleasant feelings. They come and go, often without our notice. This can be the same for our (deemed) negative ones. They could arrive like the inhalation of one breath and leave as easily as our exhalation.
To allow this, we treat our body and breath as an anchor, noticing as we inhale, “I am breathing in,” and as we exhale, “I am breathing out.” This brings us into the present, where everything has more room.
When facing anxiety or depression, we can try this:
- For 10 breaths, focus only on the breath and name what it is we are doing.
- Start out with what is real. If we are anxious, our breath might be shallow. When we inhale, name it silently to ourselves, “I am breathing in shallowly.” On the out breath, call it, “I am breathing out shallowly.”
- After five of these, try a longer breath. On the inhalation, “I breathe in more deeply,” and on the exhalation, “I breathe out more deeply.” Try five of these.
- If it feels right, put one hand on the stomach and one hand on the heart, as I did this morning. You can repeat this as many times as feels good.
The point is to train ourselves to live presently. Compassion and courage are found in the moment. It is similar to a method Thích Nhất Hạnh teaches. I adapted it with a yogic technique from Rodney Yee.
Make this sacred practice your own, adjust it as you need.
Waking up to anxiety and depression is normal for many of us. Waking up to happiness and joy is common too.
This morning, before I opened my eyes, I placed one hand on my belly and one on my heart. I told myself I loved me and I began following one breath. Shallow. Tight. Mind racing. Quick rhythm. I lengthened breath. Mind slowed. Belly softened. Heart went thud, thud. Breath deepened. Mind cleared. I no longer felt scared.
It is only in the present that we find space from the emotions that sway us this way and that. However we awaken, there is never a problem; only an opportunity to return to body, heart, and breath.
Slow down. One breath following the next. Create space. Allow change. Tell yourself you are loved. Make every experience sacred.
Author: Sarah Norrad
Editors: Emily Bartran; Yoli Ramazzina
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