You’re One Breath Away From Feeling Better
(Originally published as an article for Imbue Pain Relief Patch)
Fundamental principle of pain #1: All pain is caused by stagnation. Blood that’s not moving properly causes pain (such as the pain of a heart attack, menstrual cramps, or any trauma that damages blood vessels). Body fluids that aren’t flowing cause pain (such as the pain of edema of the legs and feet, or edema in any limb after damage has occurred to lymph nodes – as with surgical removal for cancer treatment). Food that isn’t moving causes pain (such as the gross feeling we get after a gigantic meal or the discomfort of constipation). Stagnant emotions cause a certain kind of pain (such as the toll of prolonged anger, grief, guilt, or sadness). And stagnant thoughts can even cause a form of pain (such as any kind of arguing with reality, judging, beating oneself up, pretending a relationship that’s over isn’t over, etc.).
Fundamental principle of pain #2: Relief from pain occurs immediately when free flow is restored. As soon as blood starts moving, the heart attack feels better. As soon as you have a bowel movement, the discomfort of constipation goes away. As soon as you throw up or digest it, the discomfort of overeating is over. As soon as you accept and release your stuck emotions, the pain associated with them disappears. As soon as you change your thinking, the pain of your mental confinement is alleviated.
Fundamental principle of pain #3: All of the facets of a human being are interconnected; therefore, stagnation on one level can easy spread to another level, and by the same token, initiating movement on one level tends to alleviate stagnation on all levels. If you ruminate about negative stuff (mental level stagnation), you may start to experience a persistent unpleasant emotion (emotional level stagnation), and eventually, say, heartburn (physical level stagnation). On the other hand, if you’re feeling depressed (mental/emotional stagnation) and you get some exercise (physical movement), you’re likely to experience an improvement in your mood.
There are all sorts of ways to initiate flow when you are experiencing discomfort. This week, I’m going to focus on breathing. In Chinese Medicine, the breath is considered to help mobilize our vital energy (Qi). There is a common saying: “Qi follows the breath.” And everything is Qi. Thought is Qi of a very subtle, intangible form. Flesh is Qi of a more dense, solid form. Shallow, restricted breathing tends to support stagnation, because the breath is barely coursing our Qi around. Breathing fully and deeply, on the other hand, can be excellent for alleviating pain.
If you have pain, try imagining that you’re breathing through the area that hurts, as if your nose and/or mouth were here, and you’re drawing air in and out of this painful place. You can envision pure, healing light around you, which is drawn into the painful area as you inhale through it. The light saturates the painful tissue, working its way into and between the cells. Imagine that the light repairs any damaged cells, and revitalizes them with energy. Then, as you exhale, visualize any remaining pain, stagnation, or toxins flowing out of your body. Let your breath be like bellows, causing the painful area to be cleared of its pain and infused with light / love / vitality.
Make a habit of breathing fully and deeply as often as possible. Imagine you’re filling up your pelvic “bowl” when you inhale. If you find it hard to remember to breathe, make notes for yourself – set an alarm to pop up on your phone or computer screen reminding you to take a long deep breath before you can close it. Put stickers around your world – stars, smiley faces, Hello Kitty, whatever you can find – and designate the meaning of the sticker to be take a deep breath. Then, whenever you catch one out of the corner of your eye, you know what to do. Move them to new places when you start ignoring them. If you’re anxious or in a lot of pain, really work on extending the exhale. Make it really l-o-n-g, and as it pours out of you, let go, let go, let go, let go.
Incorporate breathing into other daily activities. For instance, you can make a rule for yourself that after every bite of food, you’ll put your fork or spoon down, then take one full breath before picking up your utensil again. You can make a rule that whenever you’re sitting on the toilet, this is deep breathing time. You can decide to take three full, deep breaths to tune in before every meal, or when you first sit down in the car, or after brushing your, or whenever you pick your nose, or each time someone says the name of a vegetable. Because of the integral role of the breath in moving Qi, if you get yourself breathing better this will not only benefit your pain, you’ll just feel better overall.
Copyright 2012 by Peter Borten. No reproduction in any form without permission.