Countless individuals who live a stressful life experience a glimpse of peace, relaxation and harmony so deep and yet so difficult to explain when they practice meditation. But, how is it possible that being such a profound experience, it literaly fades faster than thoughts can capture it?
Since utero, life experiences have been imprinted in our body mind leaving a particular flavor or stamp in our personality. All the accummulated experiences gave shape to who we came to be in this world today. Many contributed to our positive growth and success while others actually held us back locking a limitation in the expression of our true Self.
Every experience allows the opportunity to learn and transcend our limitations and life's challenges, however, when the mind becomes the conductor of our lives, then a cycle is broken within the body mind and a pattern is created. Instead of allowing the cycle of expansion and contraction to fully manifest in our body, the tendency to fully contract takes over. A new pattern is embedded in our system which narrows the perspective of life itself contributing to a host of symptoms that may lead to dis-ease and dis-harmony.
In an attempt to cope with this pattern, the practice of yoga, meditation, qi gong or any other mind body discipline helps bring the individual back to its innate potential of staying centered and connected with its innate wisdom. However, the infinite environmental factors present in life trigger stress and anxiety once again when the mindful practice ends. The body mind enters into a contraction phase where shallow breathing and tension cause an array of symptoms. Unfortunately because the mind is taking over, it ignores the symptoms the body is signaling and with great effort pushes through life's ups and downs no matter what.
The cycles of contraction and expansion exist in every being on Earth. This cycle can also be experienced during the phases of the moon, during the different seasons, in a company, in a family, in any unit or living organism where there is a conception phase (a baby, an idea, a new member, a new project, etc), a development and a full manifestation (birth or end product). It can also manifest during the course of a day in the different tasks we do and how we interact with the environment as well as in our breathing patterns, how we inhale while fully expanding and exhale while fully contracting and all the shades in between those two phases (stillness is also another phase connecting the contraction and expansion of breathing). The contraction phase is not always negative. However, in this case it is negative, since the contraction creates blocks in our body and mind by holding in tension.
The cycle of contraction usually manifests in any stressful situation. It could simple be the act of driving in traffic that will activate this pattern by constricting the breath, tightening of neck/shoulder muscles, jaw, pelvis or throat to name a few examples. Another important causative factor is negative thinking which can exacerbate and feed this cycle of contraction for longer periods of time that could create chronic conditions.
There are 3 key actions that can elevate your spirit and can bring centerdness and peace while living a dynamic and hectic life. The first and most effective vehicle to break this cycle is to pause. In this state of stillness, the body and mind can become centered again. Stillness bridges the gap from anxiety to peace. It assists in fully being conscious in our body, feeling our body, the heat, the tingling, the heaviness, the lightness, the tension, the weakness, etc. In this moment, the second step, breathing, can be activated. Breath work can be practiced to create a shift that will target our sympathetic nervous system, calming our rhythm, allowing the potential of expansion to emerge with ease which in turn, creates more oxygen delivered to the brain and body systems, increases the metabolism, promotes relaxation of muscles, tissues and at the peak of inhalation (expansion phase) then contraction is activated expelling body waste products, liberating tension and negative thoughts. The third element is movement. The need to move the body in synchronicity with the stillness of the mind and rhythmic breathing can awaken the Self and the connection desired.
The cycle of expansion and contraction promotes healing, creates space in every cell, every tissue, muscles, organ, even the mind. Yoga philosophy teaches that breath is the physical manifestation of the vital energy that provides the ability to live, breathe, move and function in the world. This vital energy allows individuals to think clearly, digest food, engage the senses, activate the muscles, and carry numerous activities. Eastern philosophy calls this vital energy, prana. It is essential to a healthy life.
As a final note, the 3 main fundamental elements to keep the connection with the inner wisdom and peace of mind are stillness, breathe work and movement. This practice nurtures mindful living in every action and corner of life and although it seems easy, it takes commitment, awareness and consistency to fully embrace it until it can naturally flow in our lives without engaging the mind. This connection is essential to a healthy life, it is essential to fully manifest the true Self, it is as essential as the air we breathe. Inhaling allowing, accepting, love...exhaling clearing, tension, love. Om Shanti.
Maria Laura Rainer,BA, LMT, CBP
Founder of Holistic Body Talk
www.HolisticBodyTalk.com - Miami