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fredcowie
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Post by fredcowie » January 17, 2013, 7:33 am

And the greatest of these is . . .
© 2013 Frederick J. Cowie, Ph.D.
I feel the best I have ever felt, physically, emotionally, intellectually. Not sure what spiritually actually means, since everyone I’ve ever met has their own definition, but probably that too. And what do I attribute that to? [Certainly not to “following rules,” or I would not have used their in the earlier sentence, nor would I have ended the previous sentence in a preposition. Or as the head of the fire academy once said, “Fred, you don’t do rules well!”] No, the answer is, simply, skills. Yep, I became happy old geezer just by skill building over a lifetime; by constantly developing new skills to meet new crises and problems. While I do believe in academic education (I had to earn that Ph.D. at a real university), I have found that the skill of skill building comes primarily from unrelenting self-education, a ton of practice, and the constant encouragement and enlightenment from a group of awesome mentors. Today, I still have awesome mentors, I still develop new skills, and I still practice old and new skills on a regular, usually daily basis.
I have many skills, for I am a skill collector. The most important set of skills I implement routinely I classify as Stress Management. My personal Stress Management Skill Set includes a wide variety of activities: exercise, meditation, writing (poetry, fiction, management articles, other non-fiction, etc.), reading (science, history, biographies, self-help, art, etc.), cooking, doing household chores, taking nature/geology walks, painting watercolors, making necklace pendants, mentoring, teaching, training, and taking care of my grandson. [There is a also a list of not-doing skills, such as smoking, drinking too much, over-eating, etc., but we are not here to stop doing things, that comes later.] But the greatest, the most foundational, and the most essential skill of all is the simplest: deep breathing.
Deep breathing is not just breathing, and, paradoxically, it’s not just deep breathing. For to deep breathe you first have to want to be healthy, want to be happy, want to be clear, calm, aware, awake, and stable. You have to see both the over-energetic and the deeply-depressed states as being in need of management. You have to know that you are not a slave to your feelings, but can become the master of yourself, your “self.” Deep breathing is an attitude, a stance, a mode of existence. When pain, sorrow, anger, fear, or any other environmental or internal stressor tries to push you off center, you have to be ready to maintain your core, your center, your balance. Deep breathing is an excellent way to maintain control, or if you begin to lose it, regain control. It is stabilizing. It is meditative. It brings down your blood pressure (high blood pressure=stress). It regularizes your heartbeat (irregular heartbeat=stress). It controls your breathing (irregular breathing=stress). It breaks the pattern of repetitive, typically negative, thinking (automatic, repetitive negative thinking=stress). It returns you sense of being in control (being out of control=stress). Finally, deep breathing allows you to consciously implement the many other activities in your own personal Stress Management Skill Set.
Your mother was right, but instead of “Count to ten!” she should said “Deep breathe, slowly, to ten!” There is not a day I don’t practice deep breathing. I have found several tricks that allow me to deep breathe even when I am having trouble doing it. Deep breathing is not natural, at least not at first, at least not for me. This is hard stuff. Strange stuff. But it works. The first trick I developed is to visualize molecules. I see oxygen as energetic little bright red balls. I see carbon dioxide as non-energetic light blue balls. As I deeply inhale I see the green plants’ oxygen balls going into my lungs and all the way to the tips of my toes and fingers. As I exhale I see the blue carbon dioxide balls coming from my fingers and toes, to my lungs, and out into the universe, for the trees and plants to use. Usually, this visualization is sufficient to easily initiate my what I call my “aggressive relaxation” process by deep breathing. I know I can sucessfully counteract the chemical and neuro-electric impulses driving me to stress. But sometimes it just doesn’t work. Damn!
Now everybody has her or his (see why I used “their” earlier) way of doing things, gaining success, and self-deceiving to make things work. For some reason this next trick came to me one night when I couldn’t get back to sleep about 2:00 AM. This is rare, for deep breathing almost always relaxes me enough to fall back asleep. One night I envisualized myself as being a monk. Not a western Benedictine monk (I tried that, it didn’t work), but a saffron-robed, Buddhist monk. I saw myself as lying on a stone slab, deeply breathing, communing with whatever universe Buddhist monks commune with. It worked! I don’t use that trick often, because the colored ball trick works almost every time. I do ten slow deep breaths. Again, and again. Most of the time one ten-breath trick works. But since my goal is relaxation and stress reduction, I don’t quit till I succeed. Once I got to three iterations. Early on I often had to do two. Now, since I am practiced (I practice every day, even when not stressed—sort of a preemptive strike), once gets the trick done.
Practice till it becomes natural. It’s like a backhand in tennis, strange to begin with, but extremely powerful and natural once one becomes expert at it. Deep breathing energizes my writing, my art, my training, my life. I offer it to you as my gift to your health. It’s a start. Envision it as the cornerstone around which to build your building of stress management, or as the keystone, the final block in your archway to success. With regard to stress management success, it’s there in the beginning, it’s there at the end. And it’s there all the way through.
Frederick J. Cowie, Ph.D. Please visit my website at fredcowie.com, my FACEBOOK(/fredcowie) page where I post my writings and my paintings every day. Peace!

mwzephyr
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Post by mwzephyr » January 17, 2013, 7:59 am

Fred, you blaze an inspiring path to follow. Looks like I need to acquire a few of those stress management skills.
Thanks for sharing them.
~Zep ;)

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Ron Atchison
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Post by Ron Atchison » January 19, 2013, 9:02 am

I love the advice on breathing Fred.... made me have to do it!!! I'm curious though, do you hold your breath for a while after the inhale or do you exhale right away?

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fredcowie
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Post by fredcowie » January 19, 2013, 9:12 am

Ron: Some people advise, I just try to tell people what I do.........like I say when I teach watercolors, "I can't tell you how to paint watercolors, I can just tell you how I paint watercolors." There are a lot of breathing techniques, as far as I can see, all of them that lead to meditative calmness are good. Me, I find the breath holding a bit unnatural, so I don't do it, but I tried it for a while, long enough to see if it worked for me. That may be why I have to repeat the ten breaths more than once, but I like meditative breathing anyway, I find it calming yet energizing. Some people like the visualization part, some like the "wind" or "spirit" part of breathing. Some like the "spirit" equals "soul" part, that's not for me, but if that makes one a better person, who am I to say. I did find that when I did the breathing techniques with my son, at his request, right before he died, after which he said "Just one thing dad, I can't tell if I'm breathing," that breath and spirit became one, making all breathing exercises after that way more meaningful. Hope this helps, as always, thanks for hosting our thought-space, Fred
Frederick J. Cowie, Ph.D. Please visit my website at fredcowie.com, my FACEBOOK(/fredcowie) page where I post my writings and my paintings every day. Peace!

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Ron Atchison
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Post by Ron Atchison » January 19, 2013, 11:27 am

I think you nailed it Fred, there are many great breathing techniques and if any of them lead to a calmer state of mind, it's a good thing.

I first learned about deep breathing many years ago at a beginner's yoga class and was amazed to find how at peace I felt afterwards...

Two of my personal favorites....

4-Part Deep Breathing (see video below)

and

Alternate Nostril Breathing

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yl7oVAOQoA[/youtube]

Both are very easy to do and leave the mind and body feeling calm and refreshed. It's pretty amazing what a little oxygen can do!

Thanks again!! ;)

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dewdrops
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Post by dewdrops » January 21, 2013, 6:54 am

Thankyou Fred, thank u for reminding me to breathe. i really needed this as i had quite forgotten how to breathe!

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fredcowie
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Post by fredcowie » January 21, 2013, 9:58 am

deep conscious breathing is the beginning of wisdom, of life, of meditation..............
Frederick J. Cowie, Ph.D. Please visit my website at fredcowie.com, my FACEBOOK(/fredcowie) page where I post my writings and my paintings every day. Peace!

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Post by sara736 » December 4, 2014, 4:26 am

I would really like to do more volunteer work. I have signed up for a soup kitchen. This will also be the first year I donate blood.
Pass your Testking 70-247 on first attempt using testking.co.uk and other resources. We offer bentley

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fredcowie
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Post by fredcowie » December 4, 2014, 4:39 am

I just try to focus on my SPHERE OF INFLUENCE which I see as a space about five feet in all directions around me and an anyone or anything within that space needs to be peaceful, made peaceful, or has to leave, or I have to move my space, my sphere, to another place. Sometimes I physically have to move, sometimes I just breathe long and deep and move my perspective. But an unhappy, unpeaceful personal space is not a place I want to inhabit. Give of you, give of your hard-earned peace, and you'll be fine. I give art, art lessons, mentoring, etc. I have little energy, little cash, little of anything the world sees as great. But I do have peace. Peace! Fred
Frederick J. Cowie, Ph.D. Please visit my website at fredcowie.com, my FACEBOOK(/fredcowie) page where I post my writings and my paintings every day. Peace!

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flyingrabbit
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Post by flyingrabbit » November 3, 2015, 7:36 pm

nice reminder, Fred!
i'll try to practice it, hopefully everyday :)
thanks for sharing it!

regards,
melia

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