Zen on the bus # 3 : how to get to where you are going feeling awesome.
How would you like to get to work glowing from the inside, feeling centred and focused? You can use your time commuting doing easy stuff that will leave you feeling awesome.
In a previous blog I did the maths. If it takes you half an hour to commute to work, it sums up to about 26 working days, per year, that you spend just sitting there being transported. You don’t have to be doing anything else, your time is committed. And 26 days is a fair chunk of time that you could use to significantly improve your general sense of wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be dead time that you just sort of put up with or avoid with escapist activities.
You can enjoy commuting
Since I began using public transport to get to get around I have come to look forward to the journey. I use the time to do things that leave me feeling up-beat and in tune with my inner rhythm. And that is what this series of blogs is about – what you can do on the bus to put a sparkle in your day.
Today’s exercise is focused on breathing.
Do you take breathing for granted
Think about breathing for a moment. It is the number one most essential thing you do. Your body can go without food for weeks and water for days. But your body goes into serious survival mode if you are denied a breath for just a minute. You will fight with every fibre of your being to take that next breath.
However, most of us take breathing for granted. It is something we let our unconscious processors handle without giving it much thought. We go through our day on auto-pilot for this most vital of functions; which is a good thing of course. It would be a real pain if we had to consciously control our breathing. The thing is, that somewhere along the line we forgot how to breathe properly (check out this article).
Breathe with you diaphragm
What do a dog, a baby, a peasant field worker and ballerina all have in common? Answer: they all breathe with their diaphragm. They take deep even breaths that are powered by the action of the diaphragm; which was how your bodies was designed to work. By contrast, most of us take very shallow breaths into the upper portion of our lungs using the muscles between our ribs (inter-costal muscles) and our shoulder muscles to fractionally expand our lungs.
You could say “well it works for me” and to a degree you would be right. But it is a bit like an 8-cylinder car limping along on 4 cylinders; the engine still works and the wheels are still turning, we get from point A to point B, but it is certainly not optimal. If our big gas guzzler was only working on 4 we would immediately take it car down to the mechanic– right? It is the same story with breathing; sure you can limp along taking tiny shallow breaths but it is definitely not optimal.
Breathing exercises can reduce anxiety and depression.
Breath is an essential component in most eastern meditation practice. In fact, meditations based around breathing are often the first ones taught to beginners. The reasons for this are that a very long time ago the proponents of these traditions realized that there was a tight connection between the breath and our inner state. That is, how you breathe has a direct impact on your neurology. In more recent days, a mass of research has proved this to be the case. For example Sang-Dol et al (2005) published the results of a controlled study on the effects of a relaxation breathing exercise on anxiety and depression in patients undergoing cancer treatment. They demonstrated that the level of depression and anxiety was significantly reduced by doing certain types of breathing exercises.
Actually, we intuitively know this already. For example, what is the first thing often said to someone who is upset “take a few deep breaths and calm down”. You can prove the truth of this to yourself right now by doing the following breath mediation. It is easy-peasy and will leave your feeling calm relaxed and deeply present.
And now for the exercise
Zen on the bus: exercise # 3
The best way to do this exercise is to read the instructions and then do the exercise in your own time.
- On a scale of 1 to 10 rate your level of stress where 1 is totally Zen and chilled out and 10 is so stressed and depressed you want to scream and break something.
- First sit with your back straight and chin slightly tucked in and your belly slightly pushed out so the top of your pelvis is cocked forward. Your feet should be in front of you about shoulder width apart and bent at the knee so that your upper and lower legs form a right angle. Place your hands in your lap or resting on each leg and close your eyes.
- Think of your feet and take a slow even full breath through your nose to a count of 4. Imagine that the breath is going into your feet. Hold for a count of 4. Breathe out of your nose for a count of 4 and hold for a count of 4.
- Repeat step 3 working your way up your body: breathe into your lower leg muscles, your upper leg muscles, your butt muscles, your lower belly, your lower back muscles, your chest, your upper back muscles, your shoulders, your hands, your arms, your neck, your face and your scalp.
- Finnish up by taking a few breaths while your awarness is focused in the top of your head.
- On the 1 to 10 scale rate your level of stress, where 1 is totally Zen and chilled out and 10 is so stressed and depressed you want to scream and break something.
As you do this exercise you might experiment with imagining that you are breathing in a powerful cleansing light and breathing out stress and negativity.
As you do this you may find yourself distracted by thoughts or noises around you. That’s OK. No drama. Just keep breathing and observe yourself thinking or perceiving the outside noises or the motion of the bus or train as it slows down stops and takes off again – just watch the passage of your thoughts without getting involved in them – you could imagine them as clouds passing by. Come back each time and place your awareness on the your breathing and the part of the body you are breathing into.
- 1.Zen on the bus # 1: how to get to work feeling fresh, relaxed and ready to kick ass.
- 2.Zen on the bus # 2: how to get to work feeling fresh, relaxed and up-beat.
- 3.Zen on the bus # 3 : how to get to where you are going feeling awesome.