Like many of you, I can barely keep up with the demands of life: my job, a house with three cats, a social circle of long-time friends and neighbors, a large garden with chickens, bees, and a rabbit (okay, so most of you don’t have those), and my own health and well-being. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and find myself standing in the kitchen with no idea of what to do first, as happened a few nights ago.
At times like that, I know I have to prioritize, but in order to do that, I need to be centered and clearheaded. To help me become more present and available, I turn to the tools that have helped me in so many circumstances, those that I gained from my study and practice of Breema.
One of those tools is body-mind connection. As I stood in the kitchen that night, I remembered what I had read a day before in one of the Breema books written by Jon Schreiber, the director of the Breema Center:
“We need a way to come to reality. Breema starts with the body, because it’s the simplest way.”*
I recognized that the thoughts and feelings that were coming and going were based in fears from the past and on an imaginary future, and were paralyzing me, keeping me from seeing what is really needed and taking the required steps. And I had a clear direction: to come out of the mind of ideas—out of worry, preconception, and expectation—and establish body-mind connection. The easiest way to do that is by bringing the mind to actually knowing that the body has weight, and the body is breathing.
I began to shift my weight from side to side, as if doing one of my favorite Self Breema exercises. As I kept bringing the attention of my mind back to my weight shifting from foot to foot, my thoughts slowed down. As I stayed with the experience of body breathing, my feelings calmed down. The sense of being overwhelmed was still there but faded quite a bit into the background, and as the experience of body-mind connection deepened, I was soon balanced enough to sit down and make a list prioritizing what I needed to do. I had begun to move toward simplicity.
The other Breema tools I use often are the universal principles. Like multiple windows that each provide a unique perspective into a scene, they are simple yet profound guidelines have helped me view events of life or my own state with less identification.
As I went in to the bedroom to get clothes ready for doing the laundry, I kept body-mind connection alive by registering the weight of my body on the floor as each foot stepped across the kitchen and hall. While picking up socks from the floor and putting them in a laundry basket, I remembered the Principle of No Extra. It immediately became clear that all of the anxious thoughts and feelings were “extra,” and that experiencing them drained my energy, when I needed that energy to not only take action toward my real goals but to more fully participate while doing so. Then I remembered No Judgment, and could let go of the self-criticism that was lingering in the background about having been in a state of inertia and having had all that extra. I didn’t need to fix what was imaginary; I just needed to be with how I am, moment by moment.
Throughout the process of gathering clothes and putting them in laundry baskets, I stayed with body-mind connection as often as I could remember: registering my posture as I stretched up and raised my arms to take a blouse off a hanger, and the movement of my hands as I checked the pockets of jeans for items to remove. When worried thoughts came back or I noticed tension increasing, I remembered No Judgment again, and took that as a signal to remain with the process of inhaling and exhaling for as long as I could.
I have practiced coming to body-mind connection and bringing in the Nine Principles for a long time while taking Breema classes as a student, and while teaching classes as an Instructor, to build my familiarity and dexterity with using those tools. Being able to use them to support moving from complication toward simplicity in daily life, so I can be available to what is needed, brings gratitude.
* From Breema and the Nine Principles of Harmony.
Elaine Penderast is an staff instructor at the Oakland Breema Center. For information on the Breema Center and a full schedule of national and international intensives, workshops, weekly classes and events visit breema.com