The Three-Minute Cure: A conscious stress management practice

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While negotiating the obstacles of Delhi’s traffic, including families on motorcycles, mobile street vendors, and cows meandering across the roadway, my driver, Kumar, a yoga practitioner who likened himself to a Grand Prix racer, maintained a remarkable measure of calm and peace. I was his passenger and my life was in his hands. I was taking a journey through India to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to visit a friend and meditation teacher in the foothills of the Himalayas. Along the way I witnessed the resilience of not only Kumar, but many others living in a land that juxtaposes a deep spirituality and sacredness with over-crowding, poverty, stifled resources, and a chaos that rivals the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange. Throughout moments of reflection during my practice, I realized how often I was holding my breath in fear when Kumar negotiated everyday obstacles. My physical reaction reminded me of the stressful challenges I faced daily back home in Los Angeles, like work deadlines, family responsibilities and LA’s traffic, but nothing could compare to what a seemingly normal, routine day was like in India.

To live without stress is impossible. However, what you or I experience as stressful may not be the same for others. Since people demonstrate different reactions for managing life’s stresses, we could draw the conclusion that how we think — our perspective — plays a role in how we process stress. This in turn affects everything from how we breathe to personal transformation, healing, and our ability to find balance.

Managing and reducing stress includes both how we approach recuperating from the demands surrounding us and how we build our own residence, mentally and emotionally in preparation for life’s unexpected challenges. In this way, how we manage stress has at least two parts. First, create an environment that gives our body and mind enough time to restore and heal. Second, condition ourselves to respond to stress in a healthier manner by cultivating a more functional and mindful perspective, adjusting our attitude.

When we intend to participate in Conscious Stress Management, simplicity is key. We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves with too many instructions or techniques. Half of the practice sets our foundation by directing the body toward a healthy, feel-good state, while the other half aims at influencing our mind in a life affirming way. The following practice can help you reduce the effects of stress and improve your attitude about whatever challenges you face along your path.

Ultimately, our breath is the barometer, telling us how we’re doing mentally, emotionally, and physically. Taking a few moments to mindfully experience your breath has powerful, stress-relieving benefits. When we interact with our breath, we can affect our state of mind, our physiology, and our body’s stress response.

Ask yourself if this moment is a good time to give The Three-Minute Cure a try?

Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath to settle. Begin to follow your breath, either at the nostrils or the belly/chest. This is your foundation. As the body becomes peaceful your mind opens to suggestion. Count 12-15 long breaths with the intention of relaxing your body.

Next, as you count another 12-15 breaths, visualize or imagine you are somewhere that you find quite pleasant, safe, and comforting, such as a beautiful beach or sitting by a warm, cozy fireplace. You can even imagine you’re with someone you love or care for. This will reinforce the Relaxation Response and align body and mind.

In the next 12-15 breaths or so, use your inner voice and remind yourself what a gift life is, and feel how thankful you are to discover and learn new things and how you have breath to breathe. You can add anything else to this list that creates happiness and joy.

Complete by saying to yourself that making the choice to see the positive side of whatever might be challenging you is the most logical and practical way toward health and well-being.

Before getting up, take a long, deep breath and thoroughly notice how you feel and what has changed.

After practicing this meditation a few times counting your breaths won’t be necessary. You’ll intuitively know just how long to stay with each segment.

The Three-Minute Cure is just one of many techniques that can elicit the Relaxation Response and better prepare us for life’s challenges. Its simple structure can reinforce the ability to be thoughtful of body and mind and to believe they are powerful tools for transformation, if used consciously. Sometimes, a state of healing and balance creates an opening so we can listen to ourselves. Since we are most suggestible to our inner voice, participating in what we say can make all the difference.

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Breathe Into an Important Event

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Breathe Into an Important Event

When it comes to a significant event or activity no one is immune to butterflies in the stomach, clammy hands, dry mouth, or the accelerated beat of our heart. Whether you’re getting married, giving a speech, addressing your co-workers, on a casting call, or defending a moving violation in court, often our nerves can get the best of us, causing us to feel powerless and inconsequential, which only make matters worse.

I’ve stood in front of sixty yoga students, many of which were disappointed that the teacher who was supposed to be there wasn’t. I anxiously wondered how I was going to pull off teaching a class on being peaceful in the face of stress when I was shaking in my yoga pants. After experiencing the jitters more than once and contemplating why, I realized I was only nervous because I mistakenly believed class was about “me.”

Many have been conditioned to believe that being nervous in an important situation is normal. Is heart disease normal even though it’s been rated as the number one killer in America? Just because something occurs often and has been accepted as “a part of life,” doesn’t mean we have to accept it.

If we have conviction, whether we’re teaching, advocating, or appropriately defending a point and we take the time to realize we truly believe what we are saying, that we’re making an offering to be of service, nervousness will fade. It’s not about us. If it comes from our heart and soul, and it’s not something that our ego has manufactured to feel better, bigger, and more consequential, the anxiety will pass. Our dissertation will be as natural and playful as convincing a friend that the flavor of ice cream we like is far better than theirs.

How do you know whether you truly feel and believe what you’re doing, saying, or getting involved in? Stop in your tracks. Sit if you can, and take these four steps toward “self-honesty.”

1. GROUND — If you’re standing, let your weight sink into the soles of your feet and allow your exhales to bring you “down to earth” so that you feel humble and close to your source. This practice creates a feeling of support.

2. BREATHE – With the tip of your tongue pressed lightly on your upper pallet just behind your two top front teeth, draw three breaths or more through an OPEN MOUTH and exhale through your nose with your mouth closed. This practice balances your energy.

3. FEEL — Notice any sensations in your body, any tension that you were not aware of only a moment before. As you breathe let any tension dissolve. Notice any negative thinking, such as, “I can’t do this.” Or, “I’m afraid.” Just notice without judging, or creating a story around it. This practice expands our awareness.

4. WITNESS — Observe the entire event in the exact order of this practice beginning with GROUNDING, followed by watching your breath and noticing your feelings physically and emotionally. This practice cultivates “non-judgment” and acceptance.

Take as long as necessary until you know that your actions are coming from your wisdom center within your body, and not from your ego. When we are faced with a life situation regardless of its magnitude and we feel small and attempt to use our “will” to compensate there is a good chance we will be nervous, but if we are connected to our truth and our breath we will experience an effortless flow because the world will always benefit from another present being. GROUND – BREATHE – FEEL – WITNESS

With Love & Gratitude,

Next blog: Breathe Into Your Workout…

(Please post your comments in support of living with response-ability)

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