Sometimes inspiration comes from funny places. I’ve had epiphanies driving in the car and powerful spiritual experiences while folding laundry. Kids have taught me many lessons. One of the techniques I’ve learned in attempting to change my state of consciousness is that you have to start where you are rather than where you would like to be.
I first observed this reality when I was a young mother trying to put irritable children to sleep. I noticed that if I matched my breathing pattern to their breathing pattern I could then slowly adjust their breathing pattern with my own. The breath that I would create was shallow and quick, barely inflating my lungs. After a minute of that sort of breathing I would gradually and incrementally slow my breathing watching to make sure theirs was slowing as well. By linking our breathing patterns at a faster rate I found that they would follow my lead and slowly calm their own breathing pattern. Eventually as they calmed they would drop right off to sleep. I noticed in my own self that there inevitably came a moment a few minutes before they totally fell asleep where I would feel an intense sleepiness in my own body. The connection went both ways!
That experience taught me many things. First, that people can create a powerful connection through matching breath. Second that creating calmness works much better by first matching intensity. This second part is incredibly useful for meditative practice.
Many meditative practices focus on ways to still the mind.
I believe that there is a much broader range of outcomes that can be created.
Sometimes you need to bring your energy up as well as down. Calm and peaceful isn’t the right state of mind before an interview for a job. Enthusiastic and on your toes might be a better option. For a peaceful evening after a difficult day, you would need a different tool. These are different states of mind. I tend to think of it as energy states, rather like an electron. Electrons are constantly in motion around the nucleus of an atom. We never know exactly where one is and they are notoriously hard to pin down. However we do know that they move in specific patterns, and when energy is added to a system they can jump from a pattern that is closer to the nucleus to one that is farther away from the nucleus. This is called an excitable state. We also have excitable states, of many different sorts, both positive and negative. The joy of a party of friends, or the stress of a hard job can create an excited state. Sometimes the goal needs to be to calm down.
Exercise one: Moving from a higher energy state to a lower energy state.
Sit or stand with good posture, both feet placed on the floor shoulders back and imagine a string from the top of your head pulling your spine straight upward through your head. Don’t stick out your butt and let your belly relax. Then take a deep breath and push out the air with all your force. This is the important part. You really need to shove that air out. Keep breathing like that for a few repetitions, maybe 5-7 times. You will most likely find that the out-breath is longer than the in-breath. Slowly push the air out less hard, making the length of the in-breath and the out-breath more equal in length. Finally breath a few times where the intensity of both the in-breath and the out-breath match and are gentle and calm in manner.
Meditative techniques can create different results for different people and experience is the best teacher. I suggest noting how you feel and what you are thinking both before and after trying a meditative state. It’s important to know how the exercise affects you personally. Generalizations are great, and certainly human brains are all fairly alike. However we each have our own personal biochemistry and experiences and it’s important to listen to your body’s wisdom as well as the wisdom of the ancients.