Apologies if my last essay about success sounded glib. The problem is there are many valid questions that can be asked as to what actually constitutes success. It’s a tough world out there and getting from one day to the next can be a big success.
We all have our own struggles and the other person’s burdens may seem easier than yours, trust me – for them, that’s not the case. Those born with a “silver spoon in their mouth” too often wash out or squander those very advantages. I believe it’s important to keep in mind that “we’re all fighting the great battle.” I agree and I think it’s a good thing to keep in mind especially in these divisive and isolated Days of COVID.
With that in mind, an obvious question would be how best to prepare for the struggle ahead?
Those of you who have served in the Armed Forces might shout: “Basic Training. Ya gotta go through basic – on your face, fifty pushups, soldier!” And I would add that before you go into combat, you better sharpen all your senses.
Ah, and there’s the rub – sharpening our senses. At last count, there were six, some would claim a seventh. And you’d be right to worry that I’m now on my way to La-La Land with a long train of platitudes. Well, maybe not.
I’d like to share things I learned as I marched willy-nilly through life for almost eighty years. And here’s the disclaimer: I’m not an MD, I’m not a psychologist, and I’m not sure my temporary answers are working even for me. I’m just like everyone else. The only difference may be is I’m willing to sit at a keyboard, type some random thoughts, and then send them off to Havok. And then like they say – the rest is history.
Yeh, but I think in order to heal and become more whole, you have to be more open. It’s worth a shot.
I’m going to tackle this one sense at a time and give you something to read these next couple of weeks. But first I’d like to take a moment to write about breath – or lack thereof as in holding your breath or being breathless. Remember, if you don’t breathe – you die. Survivalists say you can live so many days without water, so many days without food, so many days without sleep…Guess what? It’s only so many minutes without breathing!
And yet so many of us, myself included, go around all day holding our breaths. Not continuously, partially, keeping stale air trapped in our lungs. Fear? Too busy? Worried? Too tired? Tense? Or just not aware?
I taught yoga. At the beginning of the class, I started out having the students lie down on their yoga mats and just breathe. For weeks, I’d look around the room – rarely seeing any movement in the rib cage. I had to remind them: “When breathing use your lungs!” Finally, rib cage and belly moving – success!
Seems we’re all too afraid to take a deep breath. I’m frequently reminded by my wife – stop holding your breath! Try swimming. Listen to your breath. Hear the bubbles being blown out as you exhale. Rejoice in those bubbles. I used to scuba dive. Super time humming underwater, exhaling, and watching those bubbles! Or when you walk, become aware of your belly. Is it jiggling as you walk along? Is your belly button bouncing side to side, crossing your meridian with each step?
Extend your awareness to your diaphragm. Relax your belly. Let the air flow in freely. Try making your morning constitutional into a walking meditation. Become aware of your feet inside your sandals, sneakers, or shoes. Can you feel your sock or the insole? What’s going on with your ankle? Are the tendons behind your knee tight?
Speaking of tight – let’s do a face trip. Remember. I’m not an MD. I learned some of this when I took a drawing class in college. The face has several depressions called fossa. You can find them on your own face. Run a fingertip between your eyes. Maybe a half-inch above the line connecting your eyebrows. Run it around in small circles. See what you find. When I have a bad headache, that’s often where I find the tension. The trick, gently massaging the spot making small circles with your fingertips helps you relax and the tension can dissipate.
Another fossa’s in your temples. About an inch out from the outer corner of your eye, roughly where your eyebrow would end up if it grew. It’s another spot you may want to massage if you had a headache.
There are others. Middle of your chin, cheeks. And there are other places you’d massage if you had a headache. AND all the times you’re massaging – BREATHE! OK, Sergeant, that’s enough.
The thing is – when I build up tension when I can’t relax, I hold my breath and this makes it only worse. On a good day when this happens – I remember my fossa’s and massage. Then maybe I can get on with breathing.
Dumb me. I’m human. I seldom remember. Often when I can’t fall asleep I forget all the tricks and continue to toss and turn. But when I do remember a little massage – I relax and fall asleep. I count that as a success!
It may not be much, these tricks to relax and breathe, but I’ll take these little victories and no harm in sharing.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.