Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Breathe damnit!

There’s this blog post I keep wanting to write but, every time, each and every time I start, something stops me. Ah well….never mind.

I went to the gym yesterday after walking the SP. Got on the exercise bike to warm up and it was like peddling through treacle. I didn’t have one bit of energy, not one bit. But I figured I could work through it, just keep going. Anyhow, I wanted to try out the new TRX. So I peddled on and got talking to the woman on the bike next to me. ‘Gonna try out the TRX?’ I said.
‘Nope,’ she replied. ‘It’s my first time back; I’ve been ill, so I’ve gotta take it easy.’
‘Oh, sorry to hear that,’ I said. ‘What was wrong?’
‘Pleurisy. Viral pleurisy.’ Ouch.

Then someone else came in, but in mufti, not gym gear. I hadn’t seen her for absolutely ages.
‘Hey, you! Long time, no see… What’s been going on?’
‘Pleurisy,’ she said.
If you wondered - this is the TRX
No shit.
And we chatted for a bit – about doctors and shrinks and floatation and diet and so on. And then she said. ‘Bottom line, I didn’t listen to my body.’

And I thought about that, as I half-heartedly went round the weight machines, every muscle crying quietly. But thought is all mind, right? And then I strapped myself into the TRX and did some planks – and then started doing crunches and then – right there – in mid-air, my body just shouted: ‘For pity’s sake, woman, enough already!!’

So I untangled myself, came home and went on Twitter and asked: ‘Do we listen to our bodies?’
And Twitter said: ‘No. Because my body alternates screaming at me "stop eating!" with "eat more!" :-/’
And Twitter also said: ‘My body tells me to sit on the couch and drink coffee.’
And Twitter said: ‘My body is shouting “Give me cake, chocolate and Ben&Jerrys!”
But does it? Is it? Is it really?

Cos that’s it, isn’t it? Mind tells us one thing; but body can talk a totally different language, if we learn to listen.
I’ve recently put an old book of mine, The Energy Secret, up on Amazon in Kindle format and in that I went through a series of stuff that might help us get in touch with our bodies. Note to self: sometimes you should follow your own advice, Jane. Not often – but sometimes.

And then I opened emails and read through one from a dear friend who has pulmonary edema right now and sighed. All these people with lung problems. Breathing. So fundamental we don’t even think about it very often; we just take it for granted.
I wrote about that too in The Energy Secret. About how there is a yoga proverb that says: “Life is in the breath. Therefore he who only half breathes, half lives.” The Buddhist tradition regards every breath and giving new life and every exhalation as a little death. In fact, look at pretty well every ancient system of healing, every branch of spirituality and will find lessons in the lungs. Breath for thought, eh? There are a whole batch of exercises you can use to shift energy, to change your physiology, your state of mind.
But really I like Bija Bennett’s approach best. Bija is a yoga teacher and writer and her little book Breathing Into Life is very lovely…it doesn’t ‘instruct’ per se, it’s more like breathing medication/meditation, with each page like a poem.  Like this...

Breathing into Life

Most likely
if you
to fall into a lake
you may
remember to breathe
for a moment
fully appreciate
your life
and your breath.

Her breathings are both poetic and (quite literally) inspirational – with lovely titles like The Wave, About the Sun and the Moon, A Daily Bath, The River Flows, In a Cage, Reach in the Dark, Absolute Uncertainty, Ride the Waves, Return to the Well, Secret Spirit, The Disappearing Act.

Ah, I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Flogging someone else’s book, rather than my own. Ah well. What goes around comes around eh?
I emailed Bija to ask her if she'd mind my reproducing one more…and she came right back and said "Of course! Use whatever you want!!" Which didn't surprise me in the slightest.  And I was so pleased as, see, all those people with lung problems, I reckon fear often has something to do with it…fear of feeling, fear of life...and this is all about just that… 

Dive Deep

Don’t be afraid to feel afraid.

Leave the safety of your sanctuary
and wander into something rare.
Instead of pulling away
turn around and face it. Because whatever happens
you won’t die. (You might cry or laugh, but you won’t die.)

Pay attention to what is going on inside you and
dive deep
into the depths of your fear.
Even when it feels like you are drowning
keep the agreement with yourself
to go deeper. Keep breathing.
The other side of fear is love.

Redirect your attention and change the pressure within yourself.
Don’t doubt, get discouraged, and stop the loving.
Feel into the feeling in your heart.
Really breathe fully
and continue to let it circulate and swell.
Allow a simple love of life to emerge.

Take time with it. Go further.
Expand the currents of your breath inside you and around you.
Discover more flow.
It may well be that you need to work through a lot of tensions.
And that’s all right. But the purpose is not just to work through them
but to move beyond them.

Your breath is the vehicle that moves you through.

Diving deep
you’ll find
that your love is what’s really alive.

Note: Bija tells me that she's creating a new site which sounds really exciting... make a note of this URL and see how it develops...


Anonymous said...


I can't breathe.
Oh, my lungs work fine.
Watch: in, out, in, out.
But I still can't breathe.
I dream of mountaintops,
With air thin enough
To draw deep like wine,
Cold and sharp inside me.
I stand so high
I cannot see the ground.
I spread my wings,
Step forward, feel the rush
As I plummet, plunge and fall.
And then my wings support me;
I soar above the clouds,
The land below forgotten,
And just breathe.


Thinking said...


Rob-bear said...

Listening to our bodies
is probably the most important,
and most human,
thing we an do for ourselves.
I speak from experience.
The experience of not listening
or at least not very well.
Or not taking seriously enough
what I'm hearing.
But I'm getting better at it.
It is a life-changing.
Doesn't have to do
with chocolate or cake.
Does have to do with rest, and walking,
reading and writing
even listening and talking
to other people.
And learning again
how to meditate.
It starts with taking time,
time to listen,
and goes from there.

citybushisland said...

hmm I think I would be just fine - if I could kick the smoking habit, totally chilled in every other way, just can't cut the last 3 cigs a day out :(

Isobel Morrell said...

Interesting post....but the most important bit is listen to your body! We women rarely do it properly and then wonder why, when we do get ill, it takes for ever to get better! As you say, Jane - do as you say! Cheers!

susie @newdaynewlesson said...

Intersting. Lungs have to do with feelings don't they?

Family Affairs said...

You are so right - I teach breathing in my classes but forget to do it myself - and yes body and mind generally speaking different languages most of the time. Lx

Sessha Batto said...

I concentrate on every breath, have for years (one place where OCD comes in handy) my son thinks it's creepy that I breathe so slowly and deeply . . . the hubs waits (whether patiently or impatiently he won't say) to see if I breathe again. My first advice for everything is make a cup of tea and take a really deep breath, then another. Anything, any problem, hurt, insult, injury, pain, slight, can be dealt with if you live breath to breath ;) A most excellent post (as usual)!!

Anonymous said...


Dump Him Love said...

I don't know how I missed this first time around but so pleased I've had the opportunity to read it now? Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom and thank your friend Bija I loved the poetry :)