Mindfulness is a bit of a misnomer… its not like we stop being mindful at random times throughout the day and therefore need to learn how to be mindful. If we were not mindful, then we would be unconscious. If you’re conscious, you’re mindful. The issue is not whether or not we are mindful, instead the issue is what are we minding, what is our focus, our priority?
Problems arise when we become mindful only to external aspects of our life: of the tasks we must accomplish, the errands we need to run, the people who depend on us, who expect from us, and we stop taking the time to be mindful of ourselves, of our inner life, our physiology and psychology. Sounds easy, right? If it was then we would all do it. It’s not, that’s why we don’t.
The fact that we can shut out how we feel, repressing and suppressing signs and symptoms from our body and our brain is often portrayed as the right way to handle ourselves. Well isn’t it? Are we not supposed to push through the pain, dig deeper and tackle that problem, hold on through this challenge in order to make it to the other side? No pain, no gain, right? Take one for the team, and then another, and another and another…
Not exactly. There is a cyclicality that must be respected… breathing in is followed by breathing out, hours of wake by hours of sleep, time to take on load, stress, requires time to be taken for rest, recovery, and healing. There is a balance to life, and to enforce balance there needs to be boundaries, limits imposed. The fact that we can temporarily suspend the cycle, push past boundaries doesn’t mean that its healthy, nor that this is the way our body and brain were designed to be used.
Its easy to deny that a cycle exists and that balance is required, but that denial can lead us to not stopping to take the time to self assess. We can become so externally focused that we deny we have become overweight, that at times our hearts race, skips a beat, that we become short of breathe, experience occasional panic attacks, periods of anxiety, bouts of depression, that a few joints hurts, it pains to go to the bathroom, that the exhaustion and fatigue that hits us at times is so overwhelming, we wonder if its all coming to an end.
How do you begin to reconnect with your internal life, to your physiology and psychology? By re-learning how to breathe. Breathing requires that we stop, and look inwards, denying for a moment that the external exists. Breathing reconnects us to us.
Unhealthy breathing patterns trigger our reflexive flight-fight-freeze pattern causing us to operate fully dependent on survival strategies, devoid of introspection, of any review of the inner state of our body or brain. Remaining in this state creates the illusion that we are invincible, that we can climb over any challenge, that we need no rest, when in reality, remaining perpetually in this state is what leads to disease: lifestyle diseases.
Healthy breathing patterns allows us to climb out of our reflex patterns, allow us to resume the use of our higher executive functions (i.e. our rational, logical, analytic brains), and to find that balance in living is what restores us, heals us.
If you are stuck in a pattern that you want to or need to break in order to regain health, then it may be time to seek help. Appointments are available Mon-Sat, before to after work hours.