We are told to stand up straight put our shoulders back and pull in our tummies. Our appearance is so important. The shoulders back and relaxed is actually a healthy way to stand for our breathing if we don’t over do it and push past what is comfortable. To find that sweet spot of comfort and good posture I usually push until it is a little uncomfortable and then release a little. Relaxing the shoulders is important too. Now the chest is open and the lungs can fill comfortably.
But that “pull in the tummy” part is not the best for good full breaths. Singers know this and sing from their bellies. But I’m not talking about holding that note forever, so just a gentle rise and fall of the belly is the goal. If you can, take a few minutes to watch a baby breathe. If not try to watch a cat or dog. Watch the belly rise and fall. We should still breathe like babies do.
I find lying on the floor with your hands gently on the belly is the best way to practice belly breathing. A bed or couch will do though. With your hands on your belly you can close your eyes and feel the rise and fall. The idea is to just let the belly fill and then the chest. If you are lying down you are less likely to contort the body to make this happen. Then let the air out gently and slowly but naturally. I practiced on the floor many times before it felt natural. This is the best way to breathe all the time but is important for any energy work like qigong, yoga and tai chi or for stretching, exercise and meditation.
It is so relaxing and healthy getting all that oxygen.
Here is a link to some fun breathing exercises from Dr Weil. I have used the relaxing breath technique before but have gotten out of the habit. I’m going to start again. I forgot how effective it is.
“Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the penthouse of existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of our being.”
~ David Steindl-Rast ~
Most of us live in the real world. We are not monks, priests or nuns living cloistered or separated lives. We have family, jobs, friends and stuff to get done. Spirituality should be reflected in and reflective of our daily lives. Otherwise what’s the point.
I think spirituality without reality has great potential, at least for me, to become an escape mechanism making it actually more difficult to live in my life. Escape and denial have occasional value but in my experience present a whole host of other problems.
One of the ways I integrate spirituality in my life is through gratitude. I use a stop and smell the roses approach. What can I appreciate and show thanks for? It makes me more mindful as I go about my day looking at things from the point of view what to be grateful for. Living on Maui gives a lot of opportunity for gratefulness. It is especially easy for me to be grateful now with the birth last month of my granddaughter.
I have friends who have kept gratitude journals. Usually at the end of the day they write down what they have to be thankful for. Some days it is just a beautiful flower they passed on a walk.
Another way I integrate spiritually in my daily life is to try and do something nice for someone or something. Maybe it’s remote like picking up some trash on the beach or more direct like calling a friend who has been a little down. Connecting is part of my spirituality practice.
Sheng Zhen Qigong is a large part of my spiritual practice too, but more about that in another post.
Tell me what you do to in your practical spirituality.
Let me first say that I am not an expert on meditation. I might even say I’m bad at it, but that is the point of what I have to say. I don’t think you can be bad at it if you are practicing at all. And I mean at all. If you sit once a week for 10 minutes and just breath in and out that’s something. Any meditation is better than none.
Of the many preconceptions about meditation is the pose. A full lotus position is not required. I can only dream of crossing my legs like that. A chair, a seiza bench are good, even lying down can be OK. A straight back is a good idea, but if you find that difficult due to body issues or the time and place you have to meditate, do the best you can. I like anywhere outside the best.
Another preconception is that meditation is hard or hard work. But almost everybody already meditates without being aware of it or even trying. Eckhardt Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh talk about the idea that everyone already meditates. Sometimes it’s more about allowing something to happen than forcing anything. Take the time, just sit.
Thoughts may come and go, and that is OK. Master Li has told us to acknowledge the thought and just say “bye bye” to the thought. I have also heard the suggestion that you let the thought flow by like jetsam on a river. I like that thought.
My best hint is – smile. It actually does physically act to relax you and make you feel happier.
When I have difficulty with too many thoughts and what is called “the monkey mind,” I will look for a guided meditation. I have a CD from Dr Weil that has a few. I have tried the Deepak Chopra meditation 21 day challenge as well. There are quite a few online too. Just Google “guided meditation.”(or use any search engine) There are many on YouTube. Everyone is different and different meditations may be better for different people. We all change from day to day and what isn’t successful one time might be the next.