It’s easy enough, isn’t it? Breathing, I mean … after all, we do it unconsciously most of the time. In fact, the air that we breathe is one of the only things that is wholly free for the entirety of our lives.
This was brought to mind when I watched Daisy the cat, fast asleep on our bed this morning. It was not just her ribcage that rose and fell with every breath, but her belly domed up and sank down too; she was so very relaxed. Babies often sleep like this too.
I am sure that any bereaved person will recognise that when you are grieving, you do not breathe properly, not at all like Daisy or a baby.
I can remember feeling breathless, as if I was not getting enough air into my lungs, particularly early on in my grief. My heart would race and pound, and underpinning it all was a sense of anxiety and fearfulness that I simply couldn’t catch my breath, or get enough of it to sustain me. I pictured the air having to fight its way through tightness in my lungs rather than journeying there with ease. I grew lightheaded and the anxiety fed on itself. I had to learn to breathe again. Easier said than done.
Over the years, I have tried various meditation, relaxation and visualisation techniques. They all involve ‘breathing with mindfulness’. By this I mean it is necessary to concentrate your focus on the in and out breath, something which we generally ignore or take for granted. It is only by doing this that you realise just how nourishing breathing can be.
The solar plexus chakra is said to sit centrally, just below the diaphragm. This chakra is where we get our gut instincts and intuition. It is an emotional centre, and it has always felt to me like the point where grief will sit like a stubborn knot, a dark lump of heaviness that needs to be dispelled. It took a lot of practice and concentration but I have found it is possible to learn to expand one’s breathing using the right techniques.
I never used to pay much attention to the concept of chakras, but now I find comfort in imagining these ancient Sanskrit symbols quietly aligning themselves along my body.
The solar plexus chakra is associated with the colour yellow, and I like to envisage it as a beautiful yellow flower, opening and closing with my breath. It is also the area that I shield and protect, mentally or with a slight touch of the hand, before I set out for the day. Visualising a barrier that repels negativity and stress in this way is really helpful to empowering yourself and strengthening your intention to face any difficult situations that may arise.
When you have finished reading this little piece, try taking a few mindful breaths.
Close your eyes, open your nostrils and suck in all that lovely free air!
Fill your diaphragm, feel your heart expand and poke out your belly … who cares if you look silly?!
Go outside into the mellowness of the autumn day and BREATHE IT IN.
Pull the air into your lungs …. visualise it filling you up inside, hold for a few seconds and puff it out with a huge sigh. Do this a few times and I guarantee you will feel better!