I participated in the Denver Women’s March yesterday, along with over 100,000 other people. It was a beautiful event focusing on justice, human rights, dignity, and respect. It reminded me that there are many of us on the planet who believe in those values, even if some in high places do not.
But the tricky thing for me, and I imagine many others is to find a way to stand up for what’s right and still keep a peaceful heart. It is easy sometimes to slide into fear or anger or both. And by peaceful I don’t mean not having boundaries or letting others take my rights away. I mean standing up for what is right and at the same time not letting it disturb my tranquility. I know it is possible to hold that space in a more consistent way because others have accomplished it.
With that in mind, I have chosen a simple intentional breathing practice for this week’s focus. It’s a variation of many of the breathing practices recommended by Thich Nhat Hahn (1) and also combines some concepts from qi gong.
Beginning with an exhale, we say silently, “I am releasing tension and negativity” while sensing that happening. For me this often feels like energy sinking and exiting through my feet, but sometimes it feels like it is evaporating from all my pores. Tuning into the release, and experiencing how it feels each time is the key to making it a mindfulness practice. If we are just imagining something happening it is a visualization. We can start with visualization if that is easier, but the goal is to eventually sense the tension being released from our body.
Then on the inhale, the phrase is, “I am taking in peace”. We focus on experiencing peaceful and calming energy coming into our body. This energy might come in through the lungs with the breath, but it might enter through the heart or the entire body. It could be different with each breath. It is the tuning into the energy and the feeling with each breath that is important. Again we might start by visualizing this, but work toward noticing what is actually happening with each breath as we are taking in peace.
Breathing practices provide one of the easiest intentional practices, at least from an accessibility standpoint. If we are alive, we are breathing, and able to practice. But more than that, this practice feels appropriate to me this week because of the joy, community, and strong validation of my values at the Women’s March. I want to hold that joy and peace in my heart as I move forward and do what needs to be done to create a better world.
If you would like more information on my focus words experiment click here.
(1) For more information on Thich Nhat Hanh click here