By Carol A. Lampman
Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment!
Do you live a life of action while maintaining a life of peace? The two do not seem to coexist and we often find ourselves striving to achieve one or the other. Do you relate to being determined and yet patient as you move through your life? We plan and organize for the next moment, week or year then forget the actual intention for the planning in the first place. We are much better at doing than being.
There is an abundance of happiness available to us. Clarity is waiting to be seen. Inner peace is free for the taking. It is all available to us if we are willing to make a modest investment. The benefits are priceless and dividends continue to multiply over time. It is within reach, here and now, and it can be applied to everything you think, say and do.
Throughout our Western culture we are suffering the effects of stress and paying the price in the loss of health and well being. The constant bombardment to the autonomic nervous system keeps us from letting down and allowing our bodies to fully rest. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, emanating from the spinal cord, control involuntary, unconscious actions of smooth muscles, cardiac muscles and glands. The sympathetic system and the nerves controlling it are found in the thoracic and lumbar segments of the spinal cord. This system primarily uses neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradrenalin to mobilize the organism in “fight or flight” reaction in emergencies. The parasympathetic system is located in the cranial and sacral segments of the spinal cord. It uses the transmitter acetylcholine to relax the body. These nerves, working together, control involuntary functions such as breathing and heartbeat.
Neurophysiologist Candice Pert states that there is a wealth of data showing that changes in the rate and depth of breathing produce changes in the kind and quantity of peptides that are released from the brain stem. By consciously altering the breath by holding it or by breathing fast, you cause the peptides to diffuse rapidly throughout the cerebral spinal fluid, in an attempt to restore homeostasis. Many of these peptides are endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, as well as other kinds of pain relieving substances. The peptide – respiratory link is well established. This peptide substrate may provide the scientific rationale for the powerful healing effects of conscious connected breathing.
The key to combating the constant stress activation of our fast paced world is to cultivate its opposite – stillness. One of the best ways to do this is mindful breathing. The simple act of focusing the attention on the breath for a short time every day calms the body and the mind. When practicing simple breath meditations,* you enter the mind body conversation without judgments or opinions, releasing peptide messenger molecules from the brain to regulate breathing while unifying all systems. The physical benefits are increased oxygen supplied to the body and relaxation of the nervous system creating balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The rewards are expanded awareness, increased clarity and a deepening inner peace. Breathe!