by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 4 (27 April 1997)
What does feeling good have to do with a series on factors affecting levels of intelligence, creativity and performance? Especially when it is possible to override illness and injury en route to a winning performance as we have so often seen in televised sports?
One of the most important considerations is the LONG-term stamina needed to see your idea or endeavor through to success. If your body is in the habit of prolonged ill feeling or weakness, it’s much harder to stay with your effort Few in fact are able to do so.
Another is the clear functioning of your intelligence itself, which in large part is partially determined by the clarity or congestion of your senses. Try taking an “I.Q.” test or playing a video game immediately after a Thanksgiving feast, for example.
There are many emotional factors that affect your intelligence. The techniques I describe below will help you get in control of you emotions. I will also show you a way to use virtually the same technique for problem solving!
These breathing techniques work faster than any pill with no adverse side-effects! The first time through, try each of these two breathing-patterns, “Velvety-Smooth” and “Relief Breathing,” for 1-2 minutes each. Thereafter, use “Velvety-Smooth” ANY time, ANY occasion, to feel much, much better in only 5-10 seconds! Use “Relief Breathing” to win immediate relief from whatever is currently bothering you or causing you difficulties.
Note: most of the difficulty we encounter in life, we inflict on ourselves by our reactions. These are reactions not only to present situations but to most of our previous difficulties as well. If we could put all that aside, life would be much easier. All we’d have to deal with is the actual situation itself! Likewise, most of the pain we experience in any injury or illness, we inflict on ourselves. If you could somehow just set all that aside and have only the actual problem to deal with, you’d be almost invulnerable……. And here are two easy ways to set all of that aside…..
- Vividly imagine having to carry a heavy sack of groceries a lot farther than you had expected. Feel the weight, the sweat, the ache in your arms and shoulders, whatever that experience is for you. How strongly can you imagine, feel, see that?
- Now imagine finally arriving at the table or counter or chair where you can finally set down that burden. Breathe your first breath of relief as that wonderful easing happens.
- Now breathe your next breath as if it were that first deep sigh of relief from when you were finally setting down that burden.
- Each next breath, when you get around to it (this should be a luxuriously slow process of breathing), make that your first great sigh of relief as you set down that burden at last. Make each next breath that first great sigh of relief….. (Continue for several minutes, s-l-o-w-l-y.)
It’s as easy as that! Compare how you’re feeling now. Better than when you started? Breath is regulated by, and provides a bridge to, your autonomic nervous system. By breathing in a focussed-relief pattern for several minutes, you signal your nervous system to relieve you of anything bothering you. This is a great little tactic to use when you find yourself below par or being bothered by something.
Not only do you breathe in characteristic ways in response to what’s going on or how feel, but you can breathe deliberately in such patterns. This causes the autonomic nervous system to make your state-of-being congruent with that pattern of breathing! You can even “read” more from someone’s breathing than you can from their “body language”. Evidence? Compare, among the sensory handicapped, how well in society the long-term blind do despite the gravity of that handicap, as compared to the long-term deaf.
The easiest way to learn the various breathing patterns consciously and to use them for bringing about desirable conditions and states-of-being, is to closely observe infants or very young children. They breathe “transparently” and it’s easy to learn from their breathing what’s going on with them. Once you’ve learned a pattern there, you can then spot it also in fellow adults and experiment with it in yourself. This is what yours truly did, which led to 70-some identifiable patterns. About 40 of which were for desirable states-of-being or conditions. The best of these were published as “the Calm-Breathing Patterns” in my book Beyond O.K. – Psychegenic Tools Relating to Health Of Body & Mind, way back in 1979) Someone else making such observations would no doubt develop a different categorical system, but it’d likely be as useful.
Velvety Smooth Breathing
- Can you imagine how it would feel to your fingers, to be stroking gently a long smooth strip of sleek silk or plush velvet? Imagine the sheer luxury of that feeling. For 10-30 seconds, remember or imagine and intensify the luxurious feel of stroking that silk or velvet. Really get into the sheer luxury of that feeling.
- Now let your breathing become long, slow, smooth, luxurious…. Let your breathing be like it’s stroking you. –Stroking you gently like a long luxuriant piece of sleek silk or plush velvet. Let your breathing be stroking you as if your whole body, head to toe, were a long luxurious strip of silk or velvet.
- With each following breath, find a way to breathe more like that than the breath before it. More luxuriously with each breath, as if you were that silk or velvet being stroked.
Practice intensifying – not just maintaining but intensifying, breath to breath, this luxury-feeling effect, for at least two more minutes. (Remember, s-l-o-w-l-y!)
After two minutes of this breathing, compare the way you are feeling now with the way you were feeling before you started. Memorize intently the resultant feeling. Use that remembered feeling as a takeoff-point next time or session, and breathe further into luxuriousness from there.
The occasions and situations in your life where this can make the biggest difference for you, are exactly those occasions and situations when you feel least like breathing in luxurious delight. Once you’ve practiced several good sessions of “Velvety-Smooth” you can revisit this experience at will. Any time you find yourself under stress, shoulders or neck stiffened or you’re breathing high in your chest, you can use this technique and reap the most benefit.
Suggestion: you can further help the benefits of this technique by visiting your spice rack and opening your favorite aromas, such as vanilla, peppermint (or coffee or some favorite perfume). Have 2-3 various of these open which you can breathe one breath from each, back and forth for comparison, and make your breathing not only velvety-smooth but delicious!
Have you tried this Velvety-Smooth Breathing experience yet? Do so now. The two minutes invested now will be made back for you many times over. It will improve your productivity the next two hours or so, by relieving stress and making you feel better. Feel good right now! There’s no charge or cost or penalty for feeling good this ultimately natural way.
Problem-solving: the solution in a breeze!
Not only will this technique make problem situations easier by setting aside all the frustrations you inflict on yourself. You can even use such breathing to discover solutions to problems!
The trick is to orient on a problem you’ve been working hard on, then set it completely aside and then begin either Velvety-Smooth or Relief Breathing or one of the other Calm-Breathing Patterns, this time not for 2 minutes but for as long as it takes to completely clear the problem away or even to nod off. When you find yourself perceiving the apparent answer, make yourself alert and work from there.
Traditionally, many creative people followed the practice of “going to sleep” on a problem and waking up with its solution. While this is a long way from our strongest creative problem-solving method, it does work often enough. It works because from the first instant of contact with a question or problem, the best answer or insight emerges deep in the back of your mind. Sometimes you’ve experienced the answer being not only “on the tip of your tongue” but on the “tip of your mind.” What’s in the way of that subtle signal is all the “noise” of our other mental and physiological operations. Bringing down the noise level – which these breathing patterns do as well as sleep does, and a lot faster – gives that subtle signal better chance to slip through.
The first time or so you might initially find some of that “noise” in the form of the problem recurring in your thoughts, the same way people have trouble not thinking about pink elephants once they decide not to. Just let that “noise” amuse you and then set it, and the problem, firmly aside and go back into the breathing and deeper luxuries as deeply as you can with the expectation that when the answer (not the problem) occurs to you, you’ll recognize that moment and become alert to give it proper attention. Usually, it’s on the edges of nodding-off, just when your “Velvety-Smooth” is lapsing into first-stage sleep-breathing.
As we said: not at all our strongest problem-solving method, but strong enough to work for most people. And the added benefit of this type of breathing for problem-solving is not only that of feeling much better for a long while after, but clearer senses and greatly improved productivity.