30 Apr Breathe in Peace, Breathe Out Calm
As your children grow older, you may start to notice fragments of freedom in your life. These are subtle at first, but as your kids become more self-sufficient and define social lives outside the house, there begins a shift where you might be able to pay more attention to yourself.
Now that my boys are twelve and fourteen, I started to feel these pockets of space open up for me mentally and physically. I am pursuing the things I love such as writing, mindfulness, yoga and making time for friendships. In particular, to deepen my personal mindfulness practice, I participated in a Mindfulness Teacher Certification training.
This training was time intensive, two full weekends and six evening classes, and took a lot of mental and emotional energy. In the middle of it realized why parents often push their dreams to the side while raising a family. While I loved the process, it will take me a while to regain balance at home. I could not have done this if my boys were young and without the support of my husband. Outside support is something to consider seriously if you are ready to follow a passion. Asking friends, family or even hiring a babysitter will be helpful as you turn your focus towards you.
After building on my daily mindfulness practice through the training, life began to take a new perspective. For those not familiar with the concept of mindfulness, it consists of consciously focusing our awareness on the present moment. This sounds simple but thoughts, feelings and emotions quickly wander us away from the here and now. Therefore, it is not surprising that we may feel exhausted and distracted even before our day begins. Mindfulness uses the breath as well as other anchoring techniques, to help quiet our minds and ground us to the present moment. For me, focusing on the breath is a way to unify my mind, heart and body. It is amazing what a few, small moments of conscious breathing can do to soothe our frazzled minds.
One exercise I learned is called Sunrise/Sunset breathing. By sharing it here, I hope that you may find it to be a useful tool when facing the challenges of your day. First, place one or two hands over your heart. Start to notice the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. When the chest rises, say ‘sunrise’ to yourself and pause for two seconds when you reach the end of your inhale. After the pause, say ‘sunset’ as your exhale leaves the body. Notice on the exhale how your chest falls back into place. Make sure to hold that short pause as each breath begins and ends. Repeat until you feel a sense of calm.
The great thing about this technique is you can do it any time and anywhere. The hardest part is to remember to do it when we are tired, overwhelmed and in conflict with someone else. These are the moments we need it the most.
I am nowhere near perfect in my own practices. However, I am starting to notice the times in my day I could use focused breathing to help me cope better. Sometimes, I am able to use it in the precise moment I need it. It is empowering when this happens because then I can choose to respond with greater ease and calm.
The power to invite more peace into our experience of the world is only one breath away.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW
Mindfulness Certification Training and the Sunrise/Sunset breathing exercise provided by: Dallas Yoga Center (MCT)