And yet, some people seem to just sail through their lives with grace and ease. How do they do it? And more to the point, how can you do it?! How do you get from “chaotic” to “in flow”? From “over-whelmed” to “creative, capable and enthusiastic”?
Hint: It’s not about doing a better job at controlling your outer surroundings. Trying to force a change in the world around you will only result in greater frustration and stress. The experience that you seek is available, but dependent on the balance of the ecosystem within you. Here are a few steps that I have found to be the most effective in cultivating a healthy ecosystem from which to live your life.
It may sound strange to say this, but most people have forgotten how to breathe. Watch a baby breathe some time and you will notice that their bellies rise and fall with each breath. But somehow through the traumas of our lives we have replaced this deeper belly breathing with shallower chest breathing. I call this “fight or flight breathing.” Research supports the physical and emotional benefits of learning how to breathe correctly.
Try this: Put your hand on your belly below the navel. Allow a breath to come in through your nose and allow it to fill your belly first so that your hand moves outward as you inhale, and moves inward as you exhale. Consider the truth that you are being breathed and that although you have influence on your experience of breathing, (ie You can breathe slower or faster etc.) there is nothing you have to do differently, or better. It’s taken care of. That means you can surrender to the process of being breathed.
Be conscious of what you experience when you do that. As food for thought, the famed psychotherapist Fritz Perls said, “Fear is excitement without the breath.”
Wait, what does food have to do with inner peace? Everything. Food is how we get nourished on a physical level. When we are well-nourished we have the reserves to act rather than react. In Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), food is considered medicine. Discovering what nutrition your unique body and constitution needs with the help of a qualified TCM practitioner can be a start to the optimal you. However, one thing you can start doing right away is cutting out all processed sugars and alcohol. While it takes about two weeks for your body to stop “missing” it, you will feel an uplift in your mood almost instantly. And you may even be amazed at how much more emotional resilience you experience as you move through your day.
Although a change of location and atmosphere can do great things for your mood, I am not suggesting you relocate. In Chinese Medicine, stagnation of energy (qi) results in disease and pain. This is true for your physical body, but it’s also true for your emotional and mental bodies. In fact, if you are someone who feels emotionally exhausted a lot, the best thing you can do for yourself is exercise your physical body. Our bodies are meant to move and depriving yourself of this basic need can lead to anxiety and depression, as well as physical stressors such as weight gain.
It is recommended that you keep your body in motion for at least 30 minutes a day, but ideally you should move around as much as possible barring any medical restrictions. When you feel down, it is a trigger reaction to stay sedentary, but as soon as you start moving – walking, yoga, dancing, weight lifting, treadmill – you will feel endorphins flood your body, uplifting your mood.
I know, I know. You don’t have time to meditate! But, can you afford not to? You know you need to exercise your physical body to function. Meditation is exercise for the non-physical parts of us.
In our world where we are over-fed information, told what to think and how to feel through the constant stream of media consciousness, practicing meditation builds a foundation for knowing your True self. It helps build a mental and emotional substrate that supports you when the chaos of life seems overwhelming. It doesn’t necessarily change the outside circumstances of your life, but it helps you keep your stability amid it.
Many of my clients have told me they don’t know how to meditate. But really, there is no wrong way to do it except not to.. Try this simple breathing meditation for starters. Sit comfortably. Breathing in through your nose, allow your breath to fill your belly to the count of 5, and then exhale to the count of 10. Practice keeping your awareness on your breath as it enters and leaves your body. If your mind wanders, take note, and gently bring your focus back to breathing. Practice awareness of your own experience. In the beginning, setting a timer each day for only 2 minutes of meditation can produce a profound shift. As you get stronger, extend the time to 10 minutes, then 30 minutes or even an hour.
Forgive yourself for judging yourself
As you move through life, things happen – both “good” and “bad.” However, the truth is, it’s not what happens but what meaning you assign to what happens that dictates your experience. Most, if not all, of the upset you experience in life is the effect of the judgements you have made about yourself, others, or a situation.
Common judgements that we tend to make about ourselves are: I am not enough, I am not worthy, I am not safe, I am alone. Forgiving yourself for buying into these limiting concepts is one of the most effective conscious acts of healing that I know. In fact, I teach whole webinars on the practice. When we forgive, we are choosing to let go of our attachment to a point of view or a way of being. The result is that we have more freedom to live from our heart. Forgiveness doesn’t change what happened, but it allows for a greater possibility for the future.
Practicing these 5 steps for cultivating a healthy balanced internal ecosystem will help you remain at peace, even when the outer ecosystem seems to be in turmoil.
To bring yourself in balance physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, schedule a consultation with Danielle Joffe MA LAc at 413.429.1278.