A reaction is not the same as a response. A reaction is instant and emotional and comes from a part of the brain wired for survival. A response requires time for thinking and planning. Sometimes waiting long enough to respond thoughtfully is hard. This video shows you how to use your own hand as a tool to practice waiting and breathing until clear thinking comes back online.
Children might learn to put out their hand like a stop sign, then turn the palm toward their face to trace each finger with the other hand while taking five breaths. Start at the thumb and trace up and down each finger. Breathe in while tracing up the finger, and breathe out while tracing down the finger, moving along the hand until a long exhale slides all the way from the tip of the pinkie finger down to the elbow. Pause to notice how you feel after finishing.
When the mind is all stirred up with anxiety, fear, anger or another emotion, thinking clearly is impossible. A homemade beach jar works like a snow globe. Shake it to create a literal version of what a murky mind feels like. Watching the contents settle creates something to do while waiting for the mind to clear. You can shake it and watch it clear as many times as it takes before you are ready for intentional action.
This video includes a quote from Lao Tzu, either a person or a collective of Chinese philosophers who lived in 6th century BCE: “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles, and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?”
To make a bear jar, use a clear jar with a snug-fitting lid and fill it with:
- Marbles or small stones
- Glitter or homemade confetti, using a hole punch and folder layers of aluminum foil
“Monkey Mind,” a phrase from Asian culture, provides a way to talk about feeling worried, restless, confused or anxious. Bringing attention to the breath can calm down a Monkey Mind. One simple breath practice uses an actual cup of hot chocolate or an imaginary one. Inhale the warm, comforting scent. Make an “O” shape with the mouth to gently and slowly ripple the liquid and cool it off. After doing that about five times, the result may be a cooler, clearer mind and a feeling of comfort. The video will show you how!
A calming breath works like a life vest when it feels like emotions are rushing us downriver and threatening to take us under. The basic goal is to regulate the flow of oxygen into the bloodstream and to make sure that carbon dioxide is being expelled in a balanced way. Here’s one idea for a breath that might boost relaxation:
- Find a place where you can see a tree or a plant. Notice details about the leaves, needles or branches.
- Note that trees and plants release oxygen into the air.
- Breathe in gently and feel like the plant or tree is giving oxygen to you.
- Breathe out gently and consider that your carbon dioxide is the food the tree or plant needs.
- Experience a moment of being grateful that nature is breathing with you. Say thank you if it feels good to say it out loud.