Holding Your Breath

Holding Your Breath 

Waiting for the shoe to drop

16854815 - funny young woman with colorful air balloons enjoyingSo many people are holding their breath, waiting for the next shoe to drop.  It seems to us that if we can just keep holding our breath then we won’t feel what is about to happen next.  Why is it that we don’t want to feel what will happen next when we don’t even know what will happen?  It is because our minds like to create the most potentially devastating stories about what things mean and how something that might occur might threaten us.  So we live with this lurking feeling of potential threat and we hold our breath in attempt to not feel it.

This holding of our breath is conscious for some people and unconscious for others, meaning you might be really aware that your breath is not fluid, rhythmic, deep, easeful or full or you may have no idea at all.  We often need contrast to become aware of ourselves and our patterns.  This applies to our breathing patterns as well.  If you’ve had experiences in your life where your breath was labored or challenged it becomes really easy to recognize when that is not the case because there is contrast.  However if your breathing has been relatively stable throughout your life you may not yet realize that more expansive or restful breath is possible because you have not yet experienced that something more is indeed possible.  

Breathing occurs naturally.  Air comes in and out of our lungs without us needing to think about it or make it happen.  Yet when this feels like it is not the case, for example if we feel short of breath or the breath feels shallow, there is quite naturally an added survival panic response that results.  It is like throwing more fuel on the fire.  As our anxiety heightens then our breath feels less and less full, the more resistance builds up in our body and the harder it feels to breathe.  Resistance is the primary ingredient that interferes with the natural process of breathing in the first place.  

This brings us back to the feeling sensation of waiting for the next shoe to drop.  When we clench or grip to protect ourselves from feeling something we put our body in a state of tension aka resistance.  Resistance makes everything more challenging including our breath.  Many people are not aware of how much they resist or attempt to prepare themselves against the impact of something potentially bad happening to them.  In fact it is this preparation or “on guard state of being” that is far more uncomfortable then simply feeling the impact of thing we are attempting to not feel the impact of.  

While this all seems rational and we might get it conceptually, particularly if nothing feels super uncertain or turbulent in our life in the moment, allowing ourselves to get it physiologically is another thing entirely.  To convince ourselves to feel the thing that everything in our mind is telling us is unsafe to feel or that we don’t want to feel is the perpetual dance we do with our defenses.  See for most people their defenses are running the show pretty much all of the time.  We tend to not notice this and think that we are in charge and not our defenses if our life seems to be going relatively well and we are in agreement with what is showing up in our reality.  However when our life shakes up a little bit and something arrives in our experience that feels unknown or undesirable we get a front row show to just how much our defenses are really in charge. 

Story of our Defenses

Bridge from concept to direct physiological experience 

perspective of wood bridge in deep forest crossing water stream and glowing light at the end of wooden waysSo you might be asking what is the story with our defenses.  First of all it may be helpful to know we all have them and their job is to protect us from harm.  They develop as mechanisms of survival for this body-mind organism.  Some of our defenses develop when we are really young and are more primitive.  They are more easily recognized as they tend to be more reactionary, emotional or physical in nature.  Other defenses develop when we are a little bit older and are more sophisticated, rational and logical.  These more sophisticated defenses are much tricker because they are based on socially acceptable rules of engagement.  We often think that we are these defenses and it is more challenging to see that our defenses are running the show of our life because we just think it is who we are.  These defenses are also more thought based meaning they are activated in response to memories of past experiences and anticipation of future events.  

Though the job of our defenses is to protect us from harm this comes with a cost.  That cost is fragmentation, separation and disconnection.  We have quite normalized living disconnected partly because we haven’t had a ton of contrast as to what it is to live connected, so disconnection seems normal.  The long term effects of fragmentation, separation and disconnection are far more reaching then any of us might currently realize.  

Bringing this back to our body, physiology and breath we must ask ourselves how we bridge this gap between knowing conceptually about our defenses to being able to move through them and feel the experiences that they are attempting to push away.  The result of this being that we open our system, relax and allow breath to breathe in and out of this body in its full, rhythmic, expansive, vital and deeply nurturing ways.  

If for a moment you think of breath as life, as what you are, rather than all of the rest of the stuff that you identify with, how would that shift your focus and change your relationship to breath?  In seeing that when you create tension patterns based on unconscious and conscious stories created inside of your own mind, that interfere with the movement of breath in and out of your body, what you are really doing is resisting life.  Creating resistance to breath is the foundation for resisting life.  Life is a myriad of infinite expressions and comes with an entire gamut of sensations, feelings, emotions and experiences.  Some of these sensations, feelings, emotions and experiences will feel amazing and others will feel horrible.  There is no real way around this unless you completely 100% shift your perspective to seeing only divine perfection in everything making every experience blissful, which for most people at this stage in the game is not impossible but highly improbable.  Due to this improbability at this current time/space nexus we must cultivate another strategy that will open us to life rather than close us down to it.  That strategy is willingness, self-permission, allowing and inner invitation to feel, sense and experience the entire gamut of whatever experiences show up in our lives no matter how uncomfortable or undesirable they are for us.  

This is a tall order I know.  Yet the only way to the other side is through.  Going through means feeling and experiencing all of it so that none is left out, split or fragmented.  This is how we arrive at the experience of connectedness and wholeness.  We leave nothing out.  We reject nothing.  Through that we arrive at wholeness.  Breath, life, moves in and out of these bodies, free and unimpeded.  

Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado

Physiology follows perception

Physiology follows perception

The filters to perception

filterWe are all familiar with the mind-body connection.  We conceptually know that beliefs, thoughts and emotions effect our body.  Something we think can produce tension in our muscles or pain in our stomach.  With this knowing many of us still do not investigate our beliefs when tension, pain or dysfunction arises in the body.  Instead we go to some physical thing that we are doing or not doing, such as our diet, exercise, or sleep that must be the culprit.  

Why is it that this is our first reaction?  The truth is most people are not adept at paying attention to their feelings and thoughts or investigating their beliefs.  Instead the relationship to feelings and thoughts is typically only to try and stop the thoughts during meditation or figure out how to get relief from feelings that don’t feel good.  Most of us don’t automatically go towards feeling the uncomfortable feeling, noticing our thoughts or investigating what is creating the feeling or thought in the first place, which is the belief.  If we did we wouldn’t need to stop our thoughts or resist our feelings anymore, instead we would get to the core or their creator, our perception.  

Perception is the lens with which we look at life.  The filters for our perception are our beliefs.  If you imagine clear perception (before any beliefs) you would simply have pure light, or pure awareness.  Think of this as your primordial state before you learned anything.  You were totally clear, pure, innocent, light.  You can see this light in newborn babies or baby animals.  That’s why we love them so much!  You will also notice in babies that they are not resisting their uncomfortable feelings, but instead simply expressing their discomfort.  Likewise they are not thinking yet as their mental faculties are not yet developed, so they have no thoughts to resist or contend with either.  In fact they are a total blank state, or pure in their perception.

As life progresses we learn things from others and in that learning we develop filters (aka beliefs) that begin to color our perception.  Instead of our perception being clear it now bends or distorts creating ripples in the fabric of our clear awareness.  This is how we begin to create our reality so to speak.  Our filters determine and decide what we see, how we see and that quite literally create the reality that we perceive.  That reality that we perceive then obeys the laws of our filters (beliefs).  It literally can not.   

Perception is chemistry 

Identified as a body

10618311 - test tubes in the laboratory on a gray backgroundOk now that we understand perception lets tie this back into our physiology, our chemistry and the experience of having a body.   Depending on your particular filters that color your perception you create not only your reality at large, but also your body and how your body functions (its physiology and chemistry).  From this perspective you can ultimately see how you are the creator.  Now most of us don’t really know that we are the creator, instead we think we are a body, but really we are the perception that creates the body.   Take a moment and let that really register and sink in.  

Now when you are identified as a body (instead of the perception that creates the body) you feel powerless or victim to how the body expresses.  You have to wait or try and figure out what the perfect conditions are that will hopefully support your health and vitality.  This comes back to why our focus first goes to the things in our environment that we can somehow physically manipulate or change.  Our hope is that by manipulating or changing these things that our physical body and physiology will change too.  Now sometimes this works, or works for a little a while, and sometimes it doesn’t.  When it seems to not work and we have tried it enough times to realize it isn’t working, we may get curious about what else is creating this situation in our body/physiology.  Here is when people may start to explore their emotions, become aware of repressed emotions, things they have buried and haven’t allowed themselves to feel, and they begin to feel them.  This is a step closer to empowerment because you are getting more subtle than just working with physical manipulation of objects and things in your environment.  You are including more of you in the process and that comes with a sense of increasing empowerment rather than simply having to wait for some physical thing to change.  

Often once you have been able to access some of the more deeply stored emotions you begin to have more inner space and with that the ability to become more aware of your thoughts.  You may start to notice the direct connection between a thought that you have, how that makes you feel and the effects it has on your body/physiology.  Once this is realized the next step is to investigate the thought and see what belief (or filter) created that thought.  Say for example you recognize that you have the thought “I’ve done something wrong” and it comes with the feeling of overwhelm and the sensation of gripping in your gut.  If you have this much awareness you can now investigate the belief that created the thought “I’ve done something wrong”.  In investigation you realize that you have a filter/belief that shines the color of there being “rightness and wrongness.”  When you can see at this level you can even begin to then transcend the belief itself and return into the primordial, pure awareness state, before anything was learned or created into manifestation.  It is from this place in awareness that you can dissolve filters and begin to re-create a new reality and a new body/physiology for yourself.  This is the ultimate empowerment because you are now in your true state rather than identified with your body.  When you are identified with your body it is very hard to make changes in your chemistry/physiology without the use of physical agents.  Once you become increasingly subtle in your awareness, starting with emotions, than thoughts, beliefs and finally pure awareness itself, shifting the physical manifestation becomes easier and easier.  Your need to rely on external agents become less and less.  

It is my theory that one of the biggest reasons why conditions, pains and disease manifest in the physical body/physiology is to help us realize more of what we are and more of our power.  They do this though showing us where we are still misidentified as something other than the pure awareness (which is so clearly seen in a baby) and where we are giving away our power.  When we can learn to use things that arise in our physical body as teachers in this way we can greatly accelerate our journey into remembering, reconnecting and embodying our truest Self or identity while here in this body on this planet.  

Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado

The physiology of self-hatred

The physiology of self-hatred 

Inner messages that are not so quiet

16907643 - generations men, all age categories, stages of developmentTake a moment to reflect on yourself.  See yourself as a baby, as a toddler, a child, a teen, a young adult, middle aged and the version of you that is here now.  As you see yourself at various ages and stages also notice how you feel about yourself at those different ages.  Perhaps seeing yourself as a baby invokes a tenderness towards yourself and seeing yourself as a teenager invokes slight repulsion.  Or maybe seeing yourself as a child brings sadness and seeing yourself as a young adult brings joy.  As you do this simply notice those versions of yourself that are easy to accept and like and also notice those versions of yourself that you resist or slightly push away.

There are ever so slight ways that we do not accept ourselves and being able to track where this lives in us is pivotal for moving into greater love for self and all.  Many of us don’t necessarily enjoy or seek out those places or parts of self that we don’t like, feel repulsed by or down right hate.  Because we often don’t look for or at these parts they show up in our life as judgment of others, aloofness or resistance to what is, and appear to have no connection to our relationship towards ourself but instead as something “external” to us in our environment.  

These inner subtle resistances, repulsions, and non-invitations of self are not so quiet.  Though it seems that if we don’t see them or look at them somehow they don’t exist, this is not the case.  They do exist and with their existences they influence not only our psyche but also create a body physiology of their own.  This physiology is one in which the human organism instead of functioning as a coherent whole, like the way a symphony sounds when all the sounds blend in perfect harmony, functions as parts that are not in communication with all the other parts.  These parts act as independent or separate units that are cut off from the whole of which they are a part of.  In fact they don’t even really know that they are part of something larger because they’ve been isolated for so long.  They have lost their connection to the larger organizing principle of the organism and thus must navigate with only their own limited resources.   

Creating coherence

Communication is the cornerstone

I relate the physiology of self-hatred to the feeling of navigating a room in your house in the dark while simultaneously every other room in your house is lit up, yet you can’t tell because you are in the dark room and it seems from where you are at that that is all that there is.  My educated and intuitive guess is that this is what disease is.  A part that is operating in the dark, disconnected from the light, trying to navigating with the best it has resource to in its separative and thus limited perspective.  Its not bad or wrong, its simply limited and out of connection with the rest of itself.  

We lose connection with ourself when we don’t accept, resist or hate a part of ourself.  We might have developed hatred of parts of ourself based on someone else’s distorted perspective of us.  For example perhaps one of our parents didn’t pay much attention to us when we were a child and so we developed the belief that we must not be interesting or important or valuable and we learn to ignore, hate or resist a part (or all) of ourself because we think it or we are not worthy.  Or maybe we didn’t make friends easily when we were a teenager and felt isolated and not included.  The tendency again is to hate this part of ourself because its not accepted or included by others.  We take that feeling of external non-inclusion and make it internal non-inclusion when we decide not accept ourself as well.   

53285081 - light and particles in a dark room through the opening doorOne thing I have discovered through experience time and time again is that when we can dive into that part of self, rather than move away from it, it can begin to heal, to reconnect to the whole of you.  On a physical level this looks like diving into uncomfortable and painful sensations.  Once you can “get inside of them” with your awareness they begin to realize that they are not alone, but instead of part of something else.  Your awareness is the light that is lighting up all other rooms in house.  By bringing your awareness into that dark room it begins to illuminate it.  Illumination brings greater resources to that part which is now coming into communication with more of you.  

In this way the physiology of self-hatred is simply parts of yourself that have lost connection with the bigger and more coherent version of you.  The mechanism of action is non-acceptance of self and the remedy is diving your awareness towards and into these parts so that they can find their way back to the light.  It takes a willingness to feel discomfort on all levels and the courage and faith to know that something else will emerge through on the other side.

Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado