Rainbow Abstract3

2. Breathing for Renewal

words written by other authors appear in PURPLE
practical exercises appear in ORANGE

* breathe vb 2: ‘to rest, to regain breath, composure’, as in “Stop for a moment and give me a chance to breathe” or “I need to get away where I can breathe for a bit.”

“Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.” 
~L. Frank Baum
“What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit.”
~John Updike

A performance artist I recently worked with told me a story about a man who walked all over the world who had a very simple technique for remembering to enjoy his walking: every couple of hours he would stop and rotate very, very slowly around his hiking stick, taking in the view and the memory of where he had come from and the world he was surrounded by, before setting off again. Imagine how his breathing would change during these moments, from his walking into his stopping, and slowly turning, into his setting off again.

This is an excellent metaphor for what we need to do to fully appreciate and reap the best from our experiences: stop and reflect around a large, all-encompassing cycle of questions that open our view and our thinking to deeper insights and wider new possibilities for our next action.

We all know this of course. But actually doing it is another matter. In our work with people in organisations we often talk about a reflection activity as a ‘
pit-stop’, and this is a good reminder of the journey aspects of life and living. Success and enjoyment along this journey need stamina, and stamina comes from regular pauses to draw in fresh air, to revive our energies and refresh us for what we want to - or have to - do next.

Any time out you can take from the hustle and bustle of “living” and “doing” to be still and breathe for a moment will create a space for you to uncover and open out a sense of renewed focus, perspective and energy. This will help to release your body, mind, heart and spirit and refresh you with new oxygen that will clear your focus and revitalise your energy.

We recognise this form of breathing as
contemplation, a conscious action we make to stop and think deeply. As well as deliberately taking the time to simply breathe and just “be”, it usually involves open questions that help to unlock, widen and expand our thinking.

Exercises for Taking Time Out To Breathe

Perhaps one of the best things we could do to take time out to breathe is to either gaze or imagine gazing into water: a deep pool, or a moving stream, or a murky river, or a shimmering sea. Allow our thoughts to sink deeper and deeper into the water and let our breathing follow.

Creative Reflection
Sitting comfortably in a relaxed and easy position, take a few moments to simply tune in to your breathing. Try to think about nothing at all except the rhythm and sensation of your breathing in and breathing out. Avoid putting any extra effort into your breathing, just let it happen, and imagine it becoming deep and easy and free and open and full.

When you are ready, choose or imagine 3 different pictures:

    Ideally talk through with someone else the pictures you have chosen and the different associations and meanings they have for you.
    Alternatively, reflect on your ideas and feelings about the three pictures you have chosen, and perhaps make some notes to help draw out and any fresh insights and new thinking.

    Learning from Experience Reflection

    Think back over your recent experience or perhaps a particular experience you have had.
    Consider and then talk through your responses to the following questions.
    Notice your breathing at different stages of this exercise.
      I hope your breathing is calm and easy by the time you have finished this reflection.

      Appreciative Inquiry Reflection

      Appreciative Inquiry is grounded in the belief that we will tend to find what go looking for, and so it must always be valuable to take time to look at what is already working well and successful in our situations and ourselves. The more expert we can become about our strengths and capabilities, the greater our sense of confidence and possibility. And it is the questions we ask that point us towards a reflection of either what is good or what is bad in a situation.

      Here are some great Appreciative Inquiry questions for uncovering what is best about us.
      Notice your breathing at different stages during your thinking about and talking about your responses to these questions.

      A. Think back to the most recent really successful experience you can remember.
      This might have been a success because you were really pleased with what you achieved, and/or you had to make something happen against the odds, and/or it just felt like a really great experience.
      - Tell the story of what happened, how you felt and why you believe things happened the way they did.
      - And what would you say is the moral of this story?

      B. Without being modest, describe what you feel most proud about…
      - yourself?
      - the work you do?
      - the people or organisation you work with?

      C. What are your three wishes for the future?

      You can email me for a fuller explanation about Appreciative Inquiry

      ……Back to Six Ways of Breathing

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