So many of us are plagued by stress and anxiety even during ‘normal’ times (whatever that means) that it would be very useful to know how to swiftly calm your mind and body at will.
In my recent stint in hospital last month, I was perfectly calm until I was wheeled into surgery. I was wide awake and could see the big bright lights overhead and complex medical equipment all around me. The attending nurse was surprised to see me still alert and awake. I noted her startled reaction, and my body responded in kind: my breathing shortened, my heart started to race, I could feel my thoughts begin to quicken and panic and I began to shed some silent tears. I was aware of fear and anxiety building up inside of me. Even with all the meditation I’ve done over 20 years, my knowledge of neuroscience and resilience strategies, having been in similar scenarios a few times before… none of that protected me from my natural human condition. So I closed my eyes and I prayed. I purposefully slowed my breathing down. I tuned into my own source of inner quiet, tranquillity and peace. And I calmed myself down.
In everyday life, nonstop electronic stimulation and the uncertainties of modern life overload our nervous systems. The result is that our brains are SET on constant low-level alert. This is exhausting, energy consuming and interferes with our capacity to enjoy the quality of each breath, each moment, of our life.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to transform your inner life and find tranquillity within.
Many dedicate their life earning outside wealth, but forget (or do not realise) how much treasure lies inside us. There’s often resistance to turning inward to find it.
We can spend our whole life in search of happiness never realising that the ocean of happiness is waving inside us… waiting for us to dive in.
Meditation is the means by which we can find the treasure of happiness within us.
To tap into this ocean of happiness requires dedicating some time every day to practice meditation. This will not happen all at once. For this, you will need to practice a little bit every day – start with one full minute. Day by day. And then there will come a time when you will not have to try to meditate, but meditation will start to happen spontaneously. You just need to decide, commit and practice with patience and kindness towards yourself.
It’s less important how long you meditate for, rather the consistency of practice, as it has an accumulating effect.
You can try some Purposeful Pause mindfulness meditation practices for free, online with me each Monday at midday (resuming 13th September, 2021)
Another powerful way of amplifying ease and calm, and reducing stress and anxiety is to bring attention to your breath and the quality of your breath in this moment. Notice what you notice about your breath. To calm and ease your nervous system, try to elongate your exhalations eg. breathe in for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 6 (or a little longer if you can manage it with ease). Another breath technique that’s proven effective in reducing anxiety is called ‘box breathing’ ie. breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4. Repeat.
My personal favourite technique for calming stress and anxiety is simply to place your hand on your heart, and continue to breathe. Simply connect with the energy of your palm over your heart and notice how your breath will naturally begin to ease and lengthen. If it’s comfortable for you, close down your eyes and smile – this will boost the coherence effect of this technique.
There’s no better time than now to give your body, heart and mind a little extra nourishment. So I’d like to share a Sanskrit poem by Kalidasa, an Indian playwright and poet of the 4th and 5th Century. It inspires me to make the most of each day, and I hope it will do the same for you.
Many people silently starve themselves of the peace and contentedness that is waiting in every moment, convinced that it can only be experienced when a group of external pieces falls into place.
However, we can be fully alive and activated right NOW.
So without further ado… I invite you to take a breath and on the exhale gently close down your eyes if that’s comfortable for you or have a soft downward gaze as I recite this poem to you (if you’re more comfortable reading, here it is below as well)
Look to this day,
for it is life, the very breath of life.
In its brief course lie
all the realities of your existence;
the bliss of growth,
the glory of action,
the splendour of beauty.
For yesterday is only a dream,
and tomorrow is but a vision.
But today, well lived,
makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
and every tomorrow
a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
This poem reminds us that the past and the future dwell only in our minds, and in truth, all that we ever experience is this present moment. “Look well, therefore, to this day…”
Now it’s your turn. What’s been effective for you in calming your mind and body when you’re feeling stressed or anxious? I’d love to know your ideas so please share in the comments below and let’s continue the conversation.
Until next time, know that you have the ability to create ease and calm within yourself in an instant. Taming your brain and harnessing the wisdom on your body is key in diving into that great ocean of happiness that’s available within.
PS: Sharing is caring. If this message and practice could aide someone you know, please share it with them now. If you found this blog post helpful, I’d love to hear from you too – comment and share your experience with me.