Part Nine & Ten of 10 Natural remedies to Suffering: How to Cultivate Mindfulness
Continuing on from earlier this week as we followed our journey inward discovering more about our ten natural remedies to suffering:
- Nurture an internal environment of relaxation
- Cultivate heightened positive affect (energy in motion or emotions)
- Mindful, peace orientated eating
- A focus on balanced diet
- An increase in natural preventative anti-inflammatories rather than prescribed antidotes to pain
- Return to compassion and connection
- Natural light as a cleansing and healing mechanism
- Attention to posture
we continue today with the final instalment of our 10 natural remedies as based in mindfulness.
9. Breath awareness and cultivation
Though focus on the breath has many benefits, for those who suffer depression and anxiety how we breathe is specifically salient. When we begin to appreciate mindfulness we learn the importance of cultivating our breath. Both in general and in specific meditative practices, we learn to self regulate body to mind, mind to body, thus actively strengthening our vagus nerve. It is also important to note the way we breathe will determine how well our bodies are oxygenated (according to the Bohr Effect, discovered in 1904): the heavier you breathe, the less oxygen is actually delivered throughout your body, this contributing to the heightened state of the parasympathetic nervous system and thus contributes to states of anxiety or depression. As aforementioned, creating mindfulness through cultivating breath awareness, as well as specific practices of the breath (Pranayama), has the capacity to extend our inner energy by focusing a wondering mind, cleansing our energy pathways, as well as increasing muscle strength, resilience and endurance.
10. Practice of the smile
Have you ever just stopped, and smiled? No? Try it! Not only for yourself, try it the next time you pass someone at the supermarket. You may find that an upturn of the corners of your mouth and eyes, along side an intentional positive emotion, can not only change your mood, so too can you impact someone else’s life as well.
Research suggests that by being mindful and invoking a genuine smile (with the Duchenne markers) through positive memory recall we have the capacity to broaden old positive experiences through awareness, as well as to build upon them by creating new shared positive experiences. That is to say, by thinking of a joyous past moment, or by eliciting positivity through appreciation of what is present, and by reflecting the joy, appreciation, hope, or love through a smile with another, we are able to effectively broaden and build upon positive affect – which in turn has holistic health benefits.
Thich Nhat Hanh surmises the practise of the smile brilliantly in Being Peace (p. 4) “At first you might find it difficult to smile, and we have to think about why. Smiling means that we have sovereignty over ourselves, that we are not drowned in forgetfulness. This kind of smile can be seen on the faces of Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas.” Thich Nhat Hanh also offers us a beautiful poem to focus the practise of the smile, and thus to cultivate mindfulness:
“Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling on the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.”
Though we may live in an epoch of heightened apprehension and disconnection, though it seems we have to be guarded and defended in order to simply survive all that seems to be threatening, perhaps it is our own defenses that are paradoxically doing more damage?
As the Yoga Sutra’s brought to light, and now what integrative science recognizes, it is the cultivation of self, or enlightenment, that has the power to free us from suffering mentally and physically. Remember that your body is a temple; that we are integrated beings; and moreover that wellbeing is not illusive: it simply requires cultivation.
Remember, it is okay if these practices seem overwhelming, and certainly with ten remedies presented over a week, it can seem all too much. Why not consider joining Celia Roberts at a class or retreat? At Celia Roberts Retreat in Brookfield, Brisbane, Qld, we offer Yoga classes and meditation or yoga retreats throughout the year enabling you to experience and to learn in the presence of a trained guide.