I wrote this and put it on hold as I do something with things thinking it wasn’t worth publishing but I chatted with many friends since about this experience and left it deserved to be put out there, even if it helps or resonates with one person. If you don’t know me already, I have worked as Bowen & Emmett practitioner since 2005 specialising in chronic pain and illness. I spent 15yrs learning from my Aikido masters about the concept known as Yin and Yang, Taoism (or Daoism) and understanding true balance. The very first thing we master in this world is breathing and very soon we can take it for granted like so many things. Here is my story on how working with my breath when I felt really stuck helped me clear out so many blocks and start things a fresh with clarity, grounding and new energy. So here goes……..
The Breath, Our Life Force
From the moment, we enter this world until our final moment, the one thing we all do is breathe yet we take this so much for granted. That expectation because it comes without effort so why focus on it? Yet our emotions get completely caught up in our breath, again without thinking. Our breath can end up holding on to these emotions and experiences that will manifest into anger, anxiety and fear because we are continuing to breathe in that format, not using the power of our breath or the completeness of our lungs.
The assumption is that the next breath will come without any effort, and yes it does but by focusing our intention on the breath, we can take things to another level. If you think about it, every woman is taught breathing techniques to bring their child into this world while they wait in the ultimate anticipation to hear that first breath and cry from their baby as the miracle of breath continues. But for some reason, breathing techniques are not given the credit or attention they deserve.
My Story in This
I consider myself an expert in breathing, learning to control severe back pain in my 20s, but I’ll admit it, I do forget too! I’m not perfect. None of us are. But I am aware of the power it brings. I must continually remind myself to focus on my breath, especially when things feel like they are running out of control. We can bring back the control with our breathing.
After I wrote my last blog on seeking balance to power momentum, I did another deep dive of my own. I do this when I feel ‘stuck’ and boy I have felt ‘stuck’ lately. Coming back into touch with everything, allows my gut feelings and intuition to soar. This year has been a rough ride so far with numerous knock-backs that I put my heart and soul into. By the start of this summer, I felt I was on my knees again. Remember, we are the breath in our lives and business and everything around me seemed to struggle lately. Time to check in and get back in touch with all areas and figure out what next.
Looking at all the area of ourselves, I looked to those that have been ‘stuck’ for some time. My weight in particular, has been super-glued since my Achilles surgery over 2.5yrs ago. Knowing what I know from my therapy experience, I knew my body was stuck in the sympathetic ANS otherwise known as ‘fight or flight’ mode. My adrenals were pumping, cortisol grand slam yet nothing I was doing was switching this off. My sleep had been ‘off’ too for a very long time (another sign of the ole adrenals over firing). But WHY???
Trying the usual suspects to calm this such as yoga, meditation, food and supplements were not hitting the nail on the head with this one. So, I did a bit of soul searching and was really surprised what came up pointed to the breath! Was definitely a DUH moment. How had I not come to this sooner? I had been feeling really suffocated for ages and bit by bit getting more anxious and irritable.
When Emotions Get Physical
Anxiety stems in the lungs. I’ve heard it referred to as suppressed grief and buried emotions. When we lose something or someone that is special to us, where do we feel it. Grief really is an emotion coming from loss, of any kind. There are just different levels of it but it is all very similar if you think about it. Let me explain using my case. Prior to my accident when I ruptured my Achilles, I was working in Limerick which was over an hour’s drive and could be nearly 2 each way if the traffic was bad. It totaled over 1,000km per week. At first it seemed OK but have a few months I felt like I was living in Groundhog Day and started to grieve for the life I had when I worked from home. I did my best to make the most of the journey but it wasn’t easy. I was exhausted. Each day was a struggle where I felt my life slip into automatic mode as if the very breath was disappearing from me.
Then I had my accident, full rupture of my Achilles which required surgery, lying face down while they worked on the back of my ankle. I’m sure this isn’t the easiest position to breath in but I was out cold so unaware. Emotions become stored in the body and it now had a reason to be compounded from the surgery. Funny, because my initial thought when I got injured was acceptance and thinking, well that made everything stop! And a sense of relief to give me some space to think. But why I contemplated when things started to go wrong, that surgery kept coming to the fore.
Post-surgery, the weight piled on and my confidence was plummeting. I mean plummeting and not at all like the person I am now but as I was as a teenager and had worked on tirelessly for most of my life. Now people look at me saying of course you have confidence but I knew how I was struggling with this inside over the last couple of years. Certain situations were bringing on panic. Not me! What was wrong.
Initially I felt nervous going out in crowds because I felt unstable on my ankle but even when the ankle was strong again, my confidence wasn’t and I still felt that surge of distress on a regular basis. My body remained in defense mode long after surgery, because it had been in defense mode prior to the surgery too. Every time I started to increase the exercise, BOOM, more weight piled on because it increased the adrenal activity which is the basis for defense mode. I started to think about this. Why? Why, because it was putting pressure on my lungs which were already in deficit so sparked a defense mode. Looking back I see it wasn’t just feeling unfit because the sensation disappeared overnight but I was genuinely finding it hard to breath.
Hang in there, I will explain how I do this shortly.
Question The Problem Until The Answer Appears
Last summer after a trip to LA, I experienced adrenal fatigue and kicked IBS for a few months where the trip and jet lag brought this to the surface. I took my nearly a month to get over the jet lag and still felt drained for months afterwards. I finally started to recognise what was going on with my health but I still didn’t know why, it was a year post-surgery. My GP couldn’t understand it either, my bloods were perfect yet it was clear to see things weren’t right. At this stage, my muscles were feeling drained too. I’d climb 2 flights of stairs and want to drop to my knees. I was trying everything and soldiered on. Over 2yrs later, I felt so stuck in many areas and even my business had become a huge struggle. I decided I had to go through my check of all areas and see what was stuck. I knew from experience over the years, I had missed something important and obviously inconspicuous because I am very aware and most areas were good. See, even I miss things. We all do.
In my experience, if we are peddling frantically in some area of our life, going nowhere, it is time to look for an area that is stuck. This approach comes from helping people manage chronic pain, where the pain is, often it not where the problem is but where the compensation is and you have to release the problem area to relieve the pain. This is a mix of my therapy experience and my knowledge of Yin and Yang and finding balance.
I went through my checklist and everything pointed to the lungs and breathing. I took a couple of homeopathic remedies I know work for me, made up an aromatherapy body oil with stimulating oils and started doing some breathing techniques daily. BOOM! WOW! I even surprised myself how fast things move but I have seen it from treating clients. The minute you hit the culprit to the blockage, it disappears almost immediately. I mean the shift happened within a day of starting my new regime.
It was like taking a massive breath of fresh air for the first time in a looooooong time. My sinuses have been a nightmare for the last two years, again I blamed that and my sluggish lymphatics on the surgery. All the time, the block, was energetic and in my lungs.
As my blog on seeking balance to power momentum explains, when we clear a blocked area in our lives, other parts can take off without us even having to try. Within days of this new feeling, I felt I was back to feeling more like myself, I had clients contact me from nowhere, either as recommendations or from things I had posted a while back. It was priceless. Everything started to flow again. My confidence is back better than ever and I am ready to rock n roll again.
So What Do I Do?
1. Find a Starting Point
Pin point a moment in time when things started to turn. There is no wrong or right in this exercise, but we need to start somewhere. Go back to the time I felt things started to run off track. In the case above, I felt it came from the surgery although once I started the exercise, I knew it went before that. So see, no wrong or right. If you start and feel it was earlier, go back 6 mths from that but don’t get caught up in a loop trying to decide when. Guess what, when you are done, you can always go back and do it again in the future. The main thing is JUST START!
2. Start Writing Things Down
It is very easy but you have to physically start to write things down and get them in front of you so you can see things more clearly. Start writing and do a complete brain dump of everything that comes into your head. Writing things and visually sees them moves it to a different part of our brain which allows solutions to appear. It will never happen running around your head, trust me.
Just start writing. It is that simple. I remember when I first started this, I wasn’t comfortable about writing so I would write about the weather and then how I felt about the weather. Just to get things started and moving. Release the block of fear in writing things down. We can fear writing so much from school days but also writing it down creates facts and proof, even to ourselves. Sometimes we don’t want to face that.
Start writing one feeling per line of what you felt at that time, what you felt happened, anything, it doesn’t matter. In ways, the less you think and just let yourself write down random thoughts the better.
- I had a new job, hard commute and trying to prove myself and fight for recognition.
- We started the company as part of a take-over so was very difficult trying to get the information we needed to ‘survive’ after the handover.
- I was feeling the life I had slip away and was getting tied up in the lifeless feeling of Groundhog Day.
- I felt I was no longer living.
- Like the breath inside me was disappearing.
Get the idea? Just write until you genuinely feel that is it and do it in one sitting.
3. Just Do It!
Have you got your pen and paper out while reading this and started? You know there is no point just reading and absorbing more info. You are just adding more to your list. Even if you just pin point a time and write 3 things you can get back to, you have started so do it now on the next piece of paper you see.
4. List The Emotions You Are Feeling From Each Point
Next, as you read back through all the points, list the emotions that go with it.
From the example above: Uncertainty, loss for my life, not valued, wrong decisions, unsure how to change, unhappy, fighting to survive.
5. Look Inside To Where You Feel Things The Most
Does some part of the body jump out at you from what you wrote that you could work on? We all feel things differently but if you think of the words we use, they often refer to a body part.
- Broken hearted – the chest and breathing
- Weight of the world on my shoulders – do you have shoulder pain?
- Made me feel sick to the stomach – digestion problems or not trusting your gut.
- Feel a lump in my throat – not expressing your opinions/voice.
It might be your breath/lungs like me or your stomach, heart, voice, trusting yourself. Jot down whatever comes to mind, there is no right or wrong answer. If you have more than one, just read each slowly and ask ‘do I start here’ and trust yourself. There is no wrong or right with this remember.
6. List The Positive Emotion That Will Change Things
Taking each emotion, write out more if you need to and/or list words that are the positive and put them somewhere visible. Again, there are no right or wrong answers and you can repeat this as often as you like but the main thing, you must take action and do it to see change.
Example: Certain, Alive, Confident, New directions, Happy, Growing.
7. Create A Reminder
Now get a word cloud app and create a background using these words so they will remind you several times per day what you are trying to achieve. I use Word Cloud for android, alternatives for iPhone are Wowed & Shapego. There are online version but they aren’t the best. Apps for this work better.
Create a background and set as your homescreen on your phone.
Alternatively, get some coloured markers and write the words out in a similar fashion as below and put it somewhere very visible. The phone background is the best option though in my opinion.
Example of Word Cloud
8. Work On The Area That Needs It
Whatever area pops up, you might be able to clear it yourself but it you are unsure, seek out a professional who can. Don’t just land it on your friends, find someone who has the expertise and I always recommend going to someone by word of mouth.
For me, my own therapy work, homeopathy, aromatherapy, Ujjayi breath or Ocean breath from my qi gong and yoga practices, meditation, reflection and journaling are the tools I use and I am blessed to have this knowledge but I appreciate not everyone has. If you need any advice, just ask although please be aware I can only give pointers without a proper consultation.
Another method I use to figure out ‘what next’ and can do anytime, anywhere. Start with the main emotion we are feeling right now. Again, using the case above, I could use ‘I feel so stuck with ……..’ or ‘I feel so fed up with ……’, whatever you feel right now, tired, lost, broken again, frustrated, whatever pops into your head, trust it .
So start with:
I feel so fed up with the weather (start easy).
I feel so fed up with driving so much every day.
I feel so fed up with not sleeping well.
I feel so fed up with…………
Keep going until you have really exhausted the list and then go back and cross off anything you have no control, eg. the weather. Let it go, you cannot do anything about it but you can prepare yourself to have minimum impact from it by dressing accordingly. Circle the areas you can do something about. I bet there are very few! See if any relate and group them together. Decide on one thing you can start doing now to see a change and you could be very surprised that the emotion clouding it all disappears. You can be amazed by just putting something to shift them on your list, things will start to move again. Also, there is something about putting it all on paper that lends to gaining back control.
You owe it to yourself, your family and your business to give as much to you as anything else because at the end of the day, you are the breath of you, your life and your business.
If you are really unsure of where to begin, if the world around you is in a spin. Just try 10 Ujjayi or Ocean breaths at intervals during the day.
So What Is Ocean Breath?
You know the sound when you hold a seashell to your year? Well, this is the sound we make with our breath in a very relaxed manner.
- Sit straight on your sitting bones (boney bits on either side of your bum) or stand straight with soft knees (ie: not locked).
- Keep your jaw completely relaxed, just open your mouth and let the jaw hang.
- You are going to breath into the sides of your ribs.
- Put your hand in front of your mouth like it was a mirror and relax a breath with your mouth open as if you are going to fog up the mirror. Do not force the breath, just gently fog up the mirror for a count of 3 or 4, then try to extend it.
- Inhale without changing anything, keeping jaw relaxed. Tension in throat is gentle and controlling the breath. Count is still 3 or 4, longer if you can.
- Take note of the sensation in your throat as you do this, it is not forced. Repeat step 2 until you feel you have the hang of it, now close your mouth and repeat while making the sound of the ocean.
- If it helps, place your hands on either side of your rib cage to feel the expansion on the ribs.
Don't worry about getting it perfect, simple slow your breath down and expand your ribcage to inflate your lungs. This will have a calming, grounding and releasing effect.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences too. Either from before or trying this. Leave a comment below or get in touch. Thanks!