breathe and be - learning to live one breath at a time...

© Cathy Rowan - 2013 
learn to calm and soothe...living life one breath at a time
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The Breathe and Be Approach

“A life with a peaceful centre can weather all storms.” Dr Norman Vincent Peale Author, Professional Speaker, Minister
Feeling good, enjoying wellbeing is something we all want for ourselves and our families and yet many of us find ourselves experiencing life as being “too much” or alternatively “stuck in a rut” with seemingly no way to escape from these difficult and draining life experiences. So life ends up being something to be endured or struggled with day by day and over time can lead to chronic stress and ill-health. My work is all about enabling people to reconnect with their body’s innate “calm and soothe” mechanisms and in doing so I can teach people how to rediscover for themselves a way to live that creates wellbeing in their life. “Breathe and Be” is an approach that is derived from the many new C21st developments in the field of neuroscience including the new IPNB (Interpersonal Neurobiology); evolutionary psychology and biology; the fast-developing field of traumatology and present-moment body-based practices such Mindfulness and Focusing. It is an approach whose focus is literally on the present moment rather than getting caught up with past events or worrying about the future. It is about how to cultivate wellbeing through connection with the felt-senses of the body, using the innate calm and soothe mode of the body/brain/mind system. Often when we get caught up in trying to find solutions to life’s problems and difficulties we are like hamsters on a wheel – going nowhere fast! However when we connect with the present-moment, literally taking life one breath at a time, we activate our bodies ability to calm and self-regulate, out of that new perspectives arise naturally and solutions, for what previously seemed to be insoluble situations, become available. From an evolutionary perspective our brains are fundamentally no different to those of our Stone Age ancestors and so we are designed to live the lifestyle of those pre-historic times. For Stone Age Man survival and procreation was the core of their existence so our forebears’ brains were excellent at spotting danger, reacting very fast and learning from it very quickly. So their brains and ours have an inbuilt skew to taking in what is perceived as threatening and negative. So our brains evolved to be excellent at encoding negative and “dangerous” experiences – the “once bitten twice shy” phenomenon.   However the Stone Age Man’s life was not  one of being constant busyness and always being on the go – unlike us, for much of the time his life was far more relaxed and so, therefore was his body/brain/mind state. His whole system would be calm, it could digest food and repair itself. It was also able to take in the many simple pleasures that come with slowing down and just enjoying the present moment. In this way he was enabling his body to repair and was reinforcing areas of the brain that take in the good and so could redress the balance of those brief threatening and dangerous survival-based activation experiences. This “taking in the good” offsets the negative skew on our brain/body/minds of the survival-based mode. So this is how our brain/body/mind state is geared to live – short bursts of completely focused activity - all focus and energy being directed physiologically to the external target of the focus. But, unlike our ancestors, we do not have brief periods of “danger” - we often have ongoing situations which we experience as threatening. So our bodies are in fight and flight mode, with raised blood pressure and heart rate, increased muscle tone to take action and our digestive and reparative modes are shut down. Also we mostly do not have luxury of longer periods of calmness wherein the body relaxes, the blood pressure and heart rate fall, and the body can fully digest food, heal, repair and restore its resources Whilst we do not have to survive the death-threat of a sabre-toothed tiger we do have to cope with living in a complex and fast-paced world where we do not know most people whereas the Stone Age Man lived in small communities and knew everyone. Our biological evolution has not kept pace with Mankind’s rapid civilisation and changed living patterns. All of this is at the core of our current day stresses and also many health issues. Our brain/body/mind system is simply not designed to live this way.  

So what can we do?

For me the metaphor of how pearls are created offers an insight into how we as C21st mankind can live well with our Stone Age brain/body/mind system so we can still enjoy our life and not become lost in stress and overwhelm. Pearls are created, as the oyster passively feeds, when a foreign substance (this could be a piece of sand or parasite) finds its way into the oyster between the mantle and the shell. This irritates the mantle - a similar reaction to us when we get a splinter. The oyster's natural reaction is to cover up that irritant to protect itself. The mantle covers the irritant with layers of the same nacre substance that is used to create the shell. This eventually forms a pearl. In the same way we pick up stress and overwhelm as we go about living our life and it causes a reaction in us too. This reaction can be exhaustion, mental overwhelm or physical symptoms such as pain. If we allow ourselves to access the calm and soothe mode and from this place to just “keep company “with the “irritant” (as opposed to trying to fix it) a “pearl” will ultimately spontaneously arise through this very process of consciously being. This is what “Breathe and Be” approach is about - in learning how to befriend our own inner experience we can consciously use the brain’s ability to change and to be able to switch from fight/flight/freeze mode to the areas of our brain that calm and soothe. Thus we can develop an inner resilience and support that promotes wellbeing and enables one to be far less prone to being overwhelmed by the inevitable stresses of daily life.

Who can the “Breathe and Be” approach help?

The short answer to this is most people.  Learning how to consciously activate the calm and soothe mode can benefit people from all walks of life and all ages. It can help children and teenagers who are anxious or struggling with exam pressures. People who have stressful jobs or health problems also find it makes a real difference to their lives. If you are interested in finding out more contact me and you can have a free hour’s consultation and out of that can decide whether this approach is right for you. 

“Breathe and be is about learning how to

develop and connect with one’s own inner

place of compassionate safeness – this is

what is at the core of wellbeing.”

Approach Approach