I have spent decades teaching people to breathe. Most people are surprised to discover that they are not doing a great job of breathing; after all, they have been doing it all their lives. Teaching yoga, breath is the central part of the practice.
So, I invite you to join me in a few long, slow, deep breaths. All it takes is three breaths to slow down your cardiovascular system, downshift your nervous system, and let enough oxygen into your brain to allow you to being thinking creatively. Three deep breaths.
The physiological fact of the matter is that when you are panicked, you have shut off your ability to think creatively. You are only focused into the old flight-or-fight, pouring energy into your amygdala, while all those ‘hey, what if we tried this?’ areas of your brain are not getting the juice they need to feel playful and innovative.
Stress and fear can take down your immune system. Allow yourself to appreciate your ability to be calm and strong. Take those three deep breaths. That flattens your own personal curve, and that will help you to be a flexible and helpful member of your community.
The opposite of “fight or flight” is “rest and digest.” That includes digesting things emotionally.
I have not ever been in a situation where it was about preparing like this; the crises that I have been through – post earthquake clean ups, laying low during riots – have all been about just staying flexible in the situation.
I’m certain that staying flexible is the best strategy. Hence, my long term devotion to yoga.
Like many of you, I have children to take care of, elderly family members to assist, and very limited means. For me, creativity has always been essential to survival.
So, while you organize your life, your family, your house to optimize the next week or ten days or whatever it turns out to be, remind yourself to breathe. Drop your shoulders. Unclench your jaw.
Think in the most creative, joyful and peaceful ways that you can. It will make you feel physically better.
World peace starts with inner peace. Know that you are okay. Do what you can do (don’t do what you can’t do) and make it a priority to be patient and compassionate.
Sometimes, life changes dramatically. One thing that won’t be changing, is your need to breathe. So, make it more than a need – make it a genuine physical pleasure. Let your brain have all the oxygen it wants. That allows creativity to expand and flourish.
We are going to get through this, and we will be different on the other side of it. No one ever solved a problem by obsessing over bad news, or keeping fear on a loop. Listen to your creativity, it will give you gifts you can’t yet imagine.