Meditation du Jour
When we were children we breathed naturally – and deeply – from our belly. Watch a child and you will see his or her belly protruding (just as does that of a Buddha!), moving upwards with each inhalation and relaxing down with each exhalation.
However, as adults, we tend to breathe up in our chest, and our breathing is short and shallow. We breathe like that, in part because we are tense. However, the reverse is also true: short, shallow, chest breathing predisposes us to feeling anxious and tense. (Try it for a few seconds right now: it is just not possible to relax when we breathe this way.) So we seem to be caught in a vicious circle.
Yet we haven’t entirely forgotten natural breathing; when we can no longer control our breathing – that is, when we sleep, or are otherwise deeply relaxed, say, veging out in front of the TV or after lovemaking – we revert to belly breathing.
To understand the connection between our emotional state and how we are breathing is to have a very helpful key. Whenever you recognize you are tense and you want, rather, to relax and be centred, bring your awareness to your belly and breathe from there. This is an especially handy device if you are about to make a presentation, have a job interview, need to make – or are on the receiving end of – an important phone call. It’s a terrific little technique: 100% effective and yet no one needs to know you are doing it!
For the first few times, to help you locate the place from where you want to breathe, you can put your hands flat on your lower belly, a few centimetres below your navel; this is known as the Hara. Those of us who practice the martial arts or T’ai Chi will know it is said to be the centre of consciousness. Gently press the Hara with your fingers.
As you breathe in, let your belly move upwards. As you breathe out, the belly collapses, relaxing.
This may feel a little odd at first because we usually do just the reverse. When we inhale we draw our bellies in (especially those of us striving for a flat belly!) and let the belly relax outwards with the exhalation. Though it may feel odd, remember it is our natural way of breathing; so we are not learning some exotic new way of breathing but are relearning how to breathe naturally.
It doesn’t matter at what pace or how deeply you are breathing. You’ll find that because your breathing is now belly based, it will slow down and deepen of its own accord. It is physiologically impossible to breathe in the Hara and be uptight and anxious. Within minutes you will feel relaxed, calm, and centered.