So I know that this is going to sound a bit new age however, one of the things I started to do this year, aside from focusing on learning a new language to fluency, was a focus on my mental health and wellbeing. Also more of a focus on leisurely pursuits and taking time to nap, hammock time, stare out the window, take the cat for walks….
I mentioned previously that 2020 did something to me.
The lockdowns, the stress, the anxiety of not being able to see family while in lockdown and the general state of the world knocked me about. I started to question a lot of things in my life that had to change.
It was mainly my relationship to the world, my relationship with friends and family and most of all, my relationship with myself.
Most of all, I had to get rid of old thinking that didn’t serve me anymore. It meant having to do a complete mental ‘switcheroo’ on having the need to:
- Keep up
- Compete with
- Be ahead of
Three things that only ever caused me angst and anxiety (if I was entirely honest with myself). It meant I had to catch myself whenever any or all of these entered my mind because it was only going to get me feeling inadequate in some way.
One of the ways that I have tried to not get into the quagmire of my own thoughts as they get caught up in these three things is by meditation.
I have been meditating for many years but I’ve not been doing it consistently. It’s been sporadic to say the least.
It’s not been an active practice of mine nor do I follow a particular style although I have been a fan of Andrew Johnson audio podcasts on iTunes for a while (his Scottish accent is ace).
However this year, I’ve been more consistent with the practice and allowing for meditation every day. That is, I make time for it and I look forward to it.
It doesn’t matter if it is 5 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour, as long as I include some time where my mind is perfectly still, I don’t care how it’s done.
In the past, I have done Yoga and Tai Chi and although I enjoyed these both, what I preferred was the breathing and meditation bits. I have never been able to get into yoga simply because I find the positions too active – in the sense that it doesn’t allow me to concentrate and focus just on my breathing because I’m always thinking about whether I’m sitting or standing in the right position or looking the right way. Similarly, with Tai Chi, I’m more concerned with doing the movement right.
I needed to find something that I could do that was not ‘cognitive overload’ for me while doing the practice of calming the mind!
I’ve found the practice of Qigong which is focussed on the two things I prefer – breathing and simple movements!
Here’s a video that is so relaxing because it has NO talking and just bird song.
Qigong is an ancient Chinese exercise and healing technique that involves meditation, controlled breathing and movement exercises. In some parts of China, it is banned because it is linked to some cults however, I’m not too fussed about that – or its healing claims – because what I’m more concerned with is simply, the breathing.
I’m not entirely sure of the scientific evidence of this practice either as once again, my focus is a way to do simple, rhythmic breathing.
I like to think about it as meditation standing up.
Doing daily Qigong breathing exercises every morning at the end of my daily walk and before I start the day with work, puts me into a frame of mind that is calm and relaxed.
In the evening, I do one to settle me to get ready for bed. In between, if I feel my heart rate racing or my breathing becoming shallower, I’ve learned some breathing techniques to be able to quieten the mind and get back to normal. They can be done lying down, standing up or at your desk. Ultimately, it’s all about the breathing.
My interest in how we breathe was inspired by the podcasts by neuroscientist Professor Andrew Huberman who shared how doing the right kind of breathing is able for us to calm and relax the mind for optimal performance.
I believe the Qigong breathing exercises allow me to do this with the gentle movement as being facilitators to help me get into rhythmic breathing easily without overthinking it like I do with yoga usually.
Certainly I have noticed some changes as I’m doing these (because the actions are quite simple, you can focus on how your body is feeling).
I have noticed that within some breaths, I’m able to get myself to a quietened state; where no thought enters my head. It just is. It feels like a “space” that hovers. I can hear what is happening around me but there’s no noise in my head. It’s an incredible feeling of being in that moment….until a thought enters and breaks it all apart.
I’m going to continue with my meditation and qigong practice because I think I have found something that makes me calm and evens out my temperament so my emotions don’t get the better of me.
Here’s another channel on YouTube I follow