Breath, Bubbles, and How Not to Freak the F@%k Out
Sometimes, this thing happens to me where energy sweeps through me at such a pace or such an intensity, and my nervous system sets off alarm bells. I might get dizzy, my heart rate picks up, my skin becomes clammy, and I panic, worried that I need to find shelter before I drop to the floor in a fetal position.
Occasionally, I find myself beginning to "check out" of my body. In psychology, this is called "disassociation."
I am particularly sensitive to feeling in general, and this includes the energy and emotions of other people.
In the past, my coping mechanisms were booze, drugs, or hiding myself away. Not that the substances worked-- in fact, sometimes they made the sensations even more obvious. But then at least I wouldn't remember it all the next day, and I could pretend it was just a part of the "let's get effed up" process.
Now I'm at a stage in my life where I am endeavouring to not escape, numb out, or repress what feels hard and scary. Because I get that the highs and the lows are impermanent waves of experience, and that I am the one riding them out with the goal of finding equanimity and compassion.
Feeling is sort of the point here. If we had wanted to only know lightness and to never feel pain, we never would have chosen these bodies and this planet.
We are here for a powerful purpose, and part of that includes riding the waves of duality.
So with that belief, I have to remind myself (daily, sometimes) that I'm safe to feel and that my sensitivity is a gift of sorts.
Though I believe in feeling the feelings, it still can be damn hard to when it is practically hardwired into my cells to escape! This is where mindful practices such as yogic pranayam (breathing techniques), or visualization come in handy. My daily practice of meditation is also key for practicing the feeling and release of whatever comes up.
Recently, while listening to an interview with Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön, I was introduced to a practice of staying embodied and present through challenging experiences:
Expand yourself to be a container to hold the emotions/feelings/sensations/energy of the experience. Feeling angry? Expand so that you can really be a space for it. Feeling grief? Imagine that you are a massive bubble capable of growing to make room for all of that pain and sadness.
This is how I like to use this practice:
1. As soon as I recognize that I am feeling sensations that I would rather numb out or escape, I bring myself immediately into my heart centre. I bring my attention to my chest, and I inhale very deeply.
2. As I inhale, I imagine my Heart opening and growing in size. It expands like an iridescent bubble. This bubble grows in proportion to the energy I am feeling.
3. At the top of the inhale, I may or may not hold for a moment. Then, I begin to exhale, visualizing my heart or bubble growing LARGER STILL. It doesn't collapse or retract on the out-breath.
4. I sometimes use the mantras, "I Am," "I am safe," or "Sat Nam" as I breathe.
My experiences with this practice have helped me to stay in my body, and have been a potent in showing me how capable I am of feeling and enduring. As a bonus, I notice that I give myself a few moments of meditation rather than knee-jerk reacting to the discomfort.
If you give this breathing technique a try, I'd love to hear how it goes for you!
In Breath and Expansion!