To Nurture a Woman's Spirit
by Connie Barrett
Though the saying that women hold up half
the sky has positive aspects, it also suggests
a great burden. Imagine that you're holding
up your section of the cosmos. Your neck,
arms, and shoulders begin to ache. And it
feels as if you can never let go - if you
do the sky will fall.
Yet, we must let go occasionally. Every
woman needs an inner space for relaxation,
not only to release us from the stress cycle
but to restore us so that we can re-assume
our responsibilities calmly - and, perhaps,
with deepened insight.
To do this is as simple as breathing.
In Comes the Good Air
Many years ago I learned that I didn't
breathe naturally. In natural breathing
the solar plexus expands on the inhale and
contracts on the exhale. Most people do
the opposite, which increases, rather than
releases, emotional tension.
Babies breathe naturally, but most children
learn that shallow breathing seems
to reduce feelings of emotional pain. Think
of the furious child who holds her breath.
These emotions don't go away, though. They
accumulate in the form of stress and tension
in the solar plexus, where they can cause
all sorts of physical ailments. Shallow
breathing also depletes our intake of oxygen,
which can cause anxiety.
Re-learning how to breathe is the first
and most important step in releasing stress.
Try practicing natural breathing for five
minutes a day. Imagine your breath rising
from your feet and traveling up your body
to the top of your head as you inhale. On
the exhale feel your breath descending again
to your feet.
Do this also whenever you feel yourself
getting tense. Lean back in your chair and
Gradually increase the amount of time you
spend on this breathing exercise. You may
want to put on a favorite piece of classical
music while you do so.
Once you feel comfortable with the basic
breathing exercise you'll find that it creates
a relaxed mood which is conducive to problem
solving. (Remember, you're increasing your
oxygen supply, which stimulates the brain.)
Maybe you need to come up with a creative
way of doing something. Focus on it, think
about what you hope to accomplish; then
concentrate on your breathing. Allow your
thoughts to wander. Don't automatically
dismiss any idea, however ridiculous it
initially seems; your imagination doesn't
like to be rejected any more than you do.
If no solution immediately emerges tell
yourself that one will; then let it go.
An idea may surprise you later on.
The relaxation method can help you in conflicts
with others, especially when you're angry
at them. It's important to feel anger and
equally important to know when to let go
of it, to realize that it tenses the body,
tightens the jaw, and often conceals the
heart of your feelings. When you get relaxed
you may find that you're also feeling taken
for granted, invalidated, betrayed, vulnerable.
Once you've allowed those feelings, try
to imagine how the other person might feel.
Focus on resolution rather than on being
You can use this procedure when you're
in conflict with yourself, when you're trying
to choose between Choices A and B. Imagine
each choice fully, noticing what feelings
arise with each, and which choice calls
up the most positive feelings.
The more regularly you practice this relaxation
technique the more readily you'll be able
to apply it in a crisis situation. After
using it you may not feel ready to take
on the world, but you'll be more prepared
to hold up your part of the sky.
Connie Barrett has been learning
about and teaching various forms of relaxation
and self-empowerment for a number of years.
Her website, Beyond the Rainbow offers more articles
on a number of modalities for nurturing
a woman's spirit.