These posters are meant to expand heart-centered wisdom, caring, compassion, and love.
A Personal Perspective: Condensing Suffering with Mindful Breathing Dr. Joseph Giovannoni
Most human suffering occurs because we do not pay attention to the nature of who we are, the nature of our existence, self-realization of the powerful engineering of our body, especially the power of the breath and heart. When our body is in pain or undergoing dis-ease we need to be mindful of the power of the heart and breath in easing pain and facilitating healing. Since being diagnosed with cancer, I have been meditating every morning to quiet the ego fearful thought process that tends to focus on the fear of the unknown, the non-existence of the body. The discomfort in my throat and neck from the side effects of radiation therapy remains a challenge as I am experiencing lymphedema in the neck, difficulty swallowing and chronic throat irritation from scar tissue. Pain and physical discomfort alert us that we need to attend to our body. It calls us to practice self-care and self-love. I am mindful of the importance of the breath during this challenging physical recovery. The breath is a life force that increases energy, facilitates relaxation and promotes wellness (Angelo, 2012). I breathe in ‘I am’ and breathing out ‘at peace’ (Giovannoni, 2017). The breath is a powerful human engineering. When we take a mindful deep breath, eases pain and suffering. Consciously breathing into my heart center helps me stay in the moment. I inhale loving-kindness for self and mindfully exhale fearful thoughts that trigger the amygdala, the flight-fight response center in the brain. Mindful breathing reduces stress and facilitates healing. Meditation and mindful breathing practices decrease inflammatory processes in the body (Rosenkranz, Davidson et al. 2013). Our compassionate heart and our breath nourish the body and restores equilibrium when we experience stress and physical pain. All suffering can be released when we distance our self from identifying with our body and mind. Meditation facilitates union and obliterates the boundaries of our individuality, the ego-self. Dr. Jean Watson’s (2008, pp 171-175) centering technique as well as other mindful practices guided by the breath, refocuses our attention away from any physical discomfort and fear. Focusing on taking a gentle-deep inhalation of loving-kindness, pausing for a moment, then intentionally exhaling fear and pain facilitates equanimity, consciously creating a quiet space to remind me that life is precious. With each breath I take, I am being conscious that eventually I will be taking my last breath. I do not consider accepting my mortality as a morbid idea but, rather enhancing my appreciation of life. Life should be joyful! Focusing on the breath brings us closer to an understanding of the purpose of life beyond the input of our five sensory organs (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) that informs our intellect about our experiences. Our five sensory organs only focus on survival. The intellect only scratches the surface of what we seek to know about our life experiences and our understanding beyond life. The intellect has created a lot of stories to appease the fear of the unknown. It derails us from our capacity to expand our human consciousness. When we limit ourselves to the input of our sensory organs, we are vulnerable to developing obsessions to escape pain by seeking immediate relief and gratification. When I meditate, I quiet the brain to go beyond the input of my five senses. The breath moves me into a quiet blissful space. In this brief harmonious healing field, I experience a connection with all of life, the extension of the mind of Creation. Every subatomic particle in my body harmoniously respond with the cells for healing. When I focus my attention on the breath, the oxygen I inhale nourishes my brain and every cell for physical healing. Taking a deep breath triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to send a message to the limbic system to quell the amygdala. I quiet the inner chatter triggered by the ego for immediate relief. Guided by heart-centered breathing I cultivate thoughts of loving-kindness and self-compassion to dissolve fearful thoughts. The breath is the catalyst from which inner wisdom to heal our body and mind flourishes. This, of course includes embracing the knowledge and wisdom of science and healing arts. Through meditation, I have developed a love affair with my breath which organically shifts my consciousness from survival mode to a deeper understanding of life including the meaning of pain. I am transported to a quiet, blissful, and peaceful space. With each deep breath I take I feel more alive and able to express gratitude for my life experience good and bad, past and present. I am more receptive to letting go of my grievances toward those who have hurt me. In Dr. Watson’s interlude she says, if what anyone tells you is fear-based, limited, or limiting, bless them and turn away (Watson, 2008) because it is beyond your control. I do not need to anchor my mind to anything that feels good and safe. I honor other’s inner-subjective life experiences and spiritual practices but for myself, I no longer need to identify with any religious beliefs, culture, ethnicity, philosophy and material things. The Latin word caritas is used by Dr. Watson to identify the embodiment of the practice of nursing. Caritas mean, charity, love and human caring. This starts with the self before we can extend it to others. My caritas journey through cancer has taught me that when I identify with anything outside of the self, I limit aspects of who I am and avoid being in constant communion with the ultimate truth of my being. Identification with anything creates attachments and entanglements that limits the evolution of our consciousness. Evolution is an ongoing process that is limited by the disruption created by beliefs and ideology that tries to convince us that there is no need for further exploration. Psychological trauma arises when we identify with something that we are not. The only way we can experience anything real is through the self and not fear based illusions. I let go of any ideology that tries to define who I am and that is fear-based, limited, or limiting. Attachments to feel good ideology that has no evidence limits the evolution of our wisdom. As we contemplate our finiteness, it is through self-discovery and being open to seeking the truth that we disentangle our identity with anything that separates us and prevents personal healing and unity. I make a loving choice that supports my healing and connects me to others who support me with loving-kindness without any expectations. When I am in pain, the solution is to be peaceful in a moment of stillness in meditation. Pain is a message that conveys a longing to grow. It is a call for humility, grace, forgiveness, and love. Each breath brings me closer to the doorstep of higher consciousness. It facilitates blissful freedom to receive a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the unknown. Between each inhalation and exhalation, I pause to surrender with gratitude for the miracle of life and forgive all my ego-driven grievances. In this space, my body and mind connects with all there is. I am open to receiving the wisdom of Creation. I acknowledge my pain and physical discomfort and I released them. I do not need to suffer anymore! Afterward, I open my eyes to return to a multisensory experience of unity of mind and my productivity throughout the day is enhanced. I am grateful to be alive with each breath I take.
Giovannoni, J. (2017) Perspective: Compassion for others begins with loving-kindness toward self. Journal of Nursing Research. Sage Publication 22(1-2) 173-177
Rosenkranz, M., Davidson, R., MacCoon, D., Sheridan, J., Kalin, N., and Lutz, A. (2013). ‘A Comparison of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and an Active Control in Modulation of Neurogenic Inflammation’. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 27 (1), 174–184.
Watson J (2008) Nursing: The Philosophy and Science of Caring. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.