– from Chapter Two: Your Belly Leading the Way
I want physical health in the present moment. In fact, that’s one and the same thing. To be healthy is to be present. I won’t settle for an abstract, intangible ideal of health, nor will I be lured by promises of a future state of perfection. I want a way to be comfortable and vital here and now, and the most effective way I know how to make it happen, to make health real for me, is to go deep within. If I am willing to feel and listen to my body, I can never be led too far astray. Health is acknowledging, feeling, trusting, and nurturing the intuitive sense that resides in the center.
So what do I mean by being ‘real’ and ‘in the present’? Well, it’s about coming down, coming back inside. We all love to go out there in la la land, the imaginary world of ideas and thoughts and fantasies and other peoples’ ‘facts.’ Yes, it’s very enticing and often fun to travel outside, in a disembodied state, to see what’s out there. But go too far, as is inevitable, and you get lost. Spend too much time out of your body and it starts to bump into things, becomes flighty or sluggish, and gets confused. And then it starts to complain in the form of weakness or pain. Spend too much time out of your body and it’s awfully difficult to remember who you really are in the present moment. Health takes place in the here and now of the physical universe of your body. And without health it’s pretty difficult to find the stability and comfort required for the journey to discover who you are in the larger, more spiritual sense.
I do believe the scientific quest for truth is a wonderful tool to keep us on track with reality, but science was never meant to suppress our personal power. When medical ‘facts’ and dubious studies are trotted out to convince you that you shouldn’t trust yourself, well… that’s unfortunate. Opinions from others, even when disguised as science, cannot determine what you experience in the present moment. Intuition comes from within. You, and only you, can be in your center. You just have to be willing to go inside, inhabit your body and be present. Hey, if you are not in there, who is?
When you think about it, it’s amazing how much the body deals with on a daily basis! And I’m sure I’ve left out several things. Wouldn’t it be nice to help out your body a little by reducing the tension that you carry around?
These are all well-known sources of stress. You can fill libraries with the books written on the specific (sometimes all too specific) therapies devised to combat them. But I want to offer you the idea that the simple system of Unwinding the Belly is designed to complement any therapy you may be engaged in right now. In fact, even though this may be controversial, I believe that therapies can actually be ineffectual, even detrimental, without first (or concurrently) clearing and bringing tonicity to the center with inner awareness and touch. That’s what I found to be true in my personal healing journey and why I’m writing this book.
You may think it odd I consider all these problems secondary. The current thinking is that these are the fundamental source of all the problems that most people, in our society at least, face today. But I feel that to help resolve these problems it’’s vital to first step behind them, to get underneath them, so to speak, to first connect with your individual source of tension and the center of vitality, the belly. That’s where the root of health is.
There are usually things that you can do about most problems, even if you don’t yet know what they are, but it’s wise to start with smaller things at the beginning of your healing journey before getting swept up in problems beyond your control. I encourage you to start with, or certainly not neglect, the personal healing that comes with Unwinding, and make that your point of departure.
– from Chapter Four: Lateral Breathing and Elimination
Lying on a flat surface with your knees up, place your left hand on the side of the belly, covering the left ribs. Hold firmly, offering some resistance. Begin to breath down into the belly as in Belly Breathing, but this time direct your breath to expand the left side out, laterally. The hand cups the ribs, not fighting or constricting the outward movement, but to give enough pressure to determine if, and how much, you are able to breathe into and fill that area. (fig. 4-1). You don’t want to feel your chest and rib muscles flexing just to give the sensation of movement. You want to feel the relaxed muscles of the ribs rising and falling due only to the internal pressure of the breath.
Since this is a new place to breathe (most likely it has been neglected for quite a long time) it may require lots of practice and patience. You want your hand on the ribs to give something for the breath to work against. It is an exercise for the breath to fill space as the muscles and ribs expand. Anyone can flex the abdominal muscles and produce movement to the side without breathing, awkward as it may be. Try it the wrong way once so that your inner sense can distinguish the not so obvious difference between contracted ‘breathing’ and relaxed lateral expansion. Then try it again with the breath, the hand cupped firmly on the side of the relaxed but moving ribs.
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