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Posts Tagged ‘breath’

Tug ‘O War

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Today I found myself caught in a tug ‘o war.

On one side: I was stuck in the future: So many projects happening all at once. I was thinking that maybe I’ve put too many irons in the fire at one time. How am I going to get ‘em all done? How can I do ‘em all well? Filled with anxiety.

And then, of course, I also found that I’d been dreaming about the potential success that these projects bring. The accolades that could be/might be there.

On the other side: I was trapped in the past. I could see so many missed opportunities. I could see things I should have done differently. I was playing the “If only I’d…” game.

And then, of course, I also found myself basking in the sweet memories of things that have gone well. Things that went according to plan. Or even better than I’d anticipated.

The problem with all of this? I wasn’t moving! I was stuck! 

It’s like BOTH sides of the rope had an equal pull.  Both sides were locked.  And so was I.

After what felt like HOURS of sitting and fretting and daydreaming, I realized what was happening. So I had to stop. And breathe.

And I took a strum break. The sound of those four simple strings always helps to bring me back to the present moment and helps me to focus! (And to be totally honest, sometimes I find myself calming down just by looking at an ‘ukulele. Simply knowing it’s there brings a smile to my face.)

I had to remind myself that the only reality is the present moment.  

Yes… I have a lot of things on my plate. But fretting about them or dreaming about their potential outcomes doesn’t help me to move forward. Instead, I’m stuck.

And likewise, worrying about things I’ve done wrong in the past or basking in the glow of past accomplishments doesn’t move me forward, either.

So I’ve set a timer to remind me to take conscious breath every hour.

And I’m keeping an ‘ukulele within arm’s reach.

And I’m making (tiny!) movements forward. One at a time today. But movement–any movement!– is good.

Movement is not stagnation.  And I’m grateful for that.

Right on.

*What do YOU do when you find yourself in a tug ‘o war between the past and the future?  How do YOU return to the present moment?


Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I’d been noticing my posture and breathing when I was playing the ‘ukulele.

(Please click HERE to read that post.)

And I recognized that my posture and my breathing could use some attention.  In short, I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

I woke up this morning with a bit of a stiff neck.

I sat down at the computer and worked for a while.  And instead of subsiding, the headache only got worse.  It felt like it was developing into one of those blinding, migraine-esque headaches that leave me sick and laying in the dark on the bathroom floor.  I couldn’t afford to take the day off.  I needed to press on and work.

So I paused for a moment and observed how I was sitting.

My head and neck were tilted toward my right shoulder.  And my left shoulder was moving closer and closer toward my left ear.  (Note:  This is the position I often find myself in when I’m strumming the ‘ukulele–with the left shoulder raised and the head tilted to the side.)

Um… hello?  Maybe this was ADDING to the headache that I was experiencing!  What a wake up call!

Instead of forcefully correcting my posture, I did something new.

I just said to myself, “I need to give my head, neck and shoulders more space.”  Somehow, that translated to a shift in my body.  Instead of JAMMING my shoulder down, it was like it “let go” of the tension necessary to hold it up by my ear.  Instead of FORCING my head back to a more neutral, centralized position in the middle of body/ribcage, it more or less corrected itself.

It was like my body instinctively knew how to fix the problem–and how to do it without adding to the stress.

And almost instantly, I noticed some of the pain in my head had subsided.  Cool!

I would love to tell you that I’ve maintained this newly adjusted posture ever since that moment.  Ha!  Only a few minutes later, I paused, again, and checked in.  And I had resumed that twisted, contorted posture all over, again.

So, I began–again!–and repeated what I’d said before.

And–once again!–my body responded and shifted to a more neutral position.


I realized that I’m going to need to be persistently gentle in my observations.  And persistently gentle about releasing of tension in my head, neck and shoulder.  Like a child who needs to be reminded.   That’s the key–like a child who needs to be reminded.

Instead of beating myself up and adding to the stress, I’m simply beginning, again.

Starting new.  Observing.  Reminding.  Shifting.

Each time.  Every time.

In my last post, I used the words sad, shocked, horrified, and hopeful.

Now the words I’d add are curious, persistent and gentle..

Observing my posture with curiosity.  What IS my body’s position?  Why do I keep going back to a posture that adds to the stress?

And I’m curious to see what happens with persistant and gentle reminders instead of forceful and demanding gestures.

I’m reframing how I look at things.  Even the language that I use with myself.

And it’s helping.  Slowly.

Awareness.  Curiosity.  Gentle persistence.

Right on.

How about you?  Have you taken notice of your posture and breathing?  What have your experiences been like?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear from you.


It’s been a long afternoon of work.  Sitting in silence at my desk, concentrating on getting the job done.  But it’s time for a much needed strum break!   The sound of those four simple strings can take away so much of the stress that’s been building up all day.

I reach over for my ʻukulele (Yes… I like to keep one within arm’s reach!) and get ready to strum.  I hold the ʻukulele against my body.

And then I stop.

I notice my body’s position.  My shoulders are crooked.  The left shoulder is pressed up toward my ear and then juts away from my body at a strange angle.  My feet are not planted evenly on the ground. The right knee is raised, the ankle is rolled toward the floor and the right foot balances on the side of the ball and the big toe.  My hips are crooked.  My neck is tight.

I notice the quality of my breath.  Instead of being steady and even, I see that it comes in short bursts.  Gasps.  My ribs are concave, compressing my lungs and diaphragm.  I couldn’t take a deep, well-supported breath if I tried.

I’m a mess.

But this isn’t unusual.  In fact, this is the position that I can be found in quite often when I’m playing.  How sad is that?

And you know the saddest part?  I’ve only recently realized this.

A strange (and wonderful!) series of events and coincidences over the past two weeks have given me the opportunity to step back and view my body and breath–two things I rarely think about.  Ok… maybe I haven’t thought about either of them in a long, long time.

Except for the times that my body has “failed me” by being in pain or having something SO WRONG that it prevented me from doing what I wanted to to do.

So when I remember, I stop.  I notice.

And I’m shocked.  And horrified.

These are my “habits” and my body has grown used to them.  Was I aware of body placement in the early days, when I was just beginning to strum and sing?  Maybe… But it’s been so long that I’ve grown lazy and complacent  and my playing/singing has surely suffered from it.

And I’m hopeful.

Because now that I’m aware of them, I can do something about it.  I can make changes.  I can take a moment to relax and breathe deeply for a few conscious breaths.  I can remind myself to “let go” in the shoulders.  To plant my feet on the ground. To open my chest with ease.

I wasn’t aware of my “unsupportive habits” before.  And so I continued to reinforce them–allowing them to grow stronger every day.  Every time I picked up the ʻukulele to strum.  Every time I opened my mouth to sing.

It has taken a long time to build those habits that don’t support a healthy body or sound.

It will probably take a long time to get used to building new, more supportive habits.

It will probably take a long time to build the habit of simply stopping and noticing the quality of the body and the quality of the breath before I begin to play.

But that’s ok.  I’m in this for the long run.

It’s a process.

One step at a time.

Awareness is a good first step.

Right on.

Are YOU aware of your the quality of your body and your breath throughout the day? Drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you!