I’d just like to frame this up for you before we go at it. As I age, I am continually striving to refine many aspects of my life both creatively and holistically. One of my recent curiosities into simplicity is the role water and breath play in our lives and their interconnectedness. The beauty of anything that appears wonderfully simple is that there is a complexity behind its design.
To help you with the framing process of this week’s musing I have been recently re-reading sections of The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. As such the way in which I would invite you to view water and breath is through the Japanese elemental meaning / definition. (which for the benefit if this musing I have taken from Wikipedia)
水 Sui or mizu, meaning "Water", represents the fluid, flowing, and the formless things in the world. Outside of the obvious example of rivers and the lake, plants are also categorized under sui, as they adapt to their environment, growing and changing according to the direction of the sun and the changing seasons. Blood and other bodily fluids are represented by sui, as are mental or emotional tendencies towards adaptation and change. Sui can be associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism.
風 Fū or kaze, meaning "Wind", represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. Aside from air, smoke and the like, fū can in some ways be best represented by the human mind. As we grow physically, we learn and expand mentally as well, in terms of our knowledge, our experiences, and our personalities. Fū represents breathing, and the internal processes associated with respiration. Mentally and emotionally, it represents an "open-minded" attitude and carefree feeling. It can be associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom.
The simple act to breathe in times of stress and anxiety can make a big difference to how we make sound decisions. Good breathing technique can make all the difference to remaining calm. Calm and chaos are both extremely contagious. So, let’s focus on the calm. What happens when we breathe with a view to remain calm and engage the parasympathetic nervous system?
I’ll just back it up at that point for those not as familiar with our nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is the branch of the nervous system that carries out the vital functions of the system without conscious control. This system is again divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic. Put in basic terms the sympathetic nervous system role is to gear us up in moments of fight and flight response for example heart rate, blood pressure, sweat secretion and pupil dilation. Whereas the parasympathetic nervous system basically does the opposite. Decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and prepares the body for digestion rest and sleep.
With a focus on the exhalation cycle in our breathing we can start to tap into that part of the parasympathetic nervous system and begin to regain some control. There are many techniques out there and I’m sure Dr. Google will help you. Basic ones are box breathing, 2-1 or 4-7-8. Which ever you choose the focus in on the ‘control’ of the exhalation is the key. Where my current training is taking me, I am focused on the box breathing. But that is where I am at.
There is enough research out there to know that dehydration adversely affects us, even in very small amounts of dehydration our visual tracking and short-term memory are affected. Our brains are about 75% water. Water has a vital role in our body’s overall health, including keeping your neurons firing well!
Neurons send signals that allow your body to move, talk and function. Water makes the myelin sheaths (the thing that covers the neurons) thicker, thus helping it to work better. Put simply drinking water keeps you brain fuelled. Given your brain has no way to store water it’s up to you to provide that constant flow.
Breath and water. Their interconnectedness to and affect our nervous system is wonderful. The simplicity of it is amazing and yet the complexity is magnificent. The mindfulness that we can bring to it as a simple daily task could have a huge effect on our overall life. When in doubt; take a sip of water and a breath of fresh air. When hit with an emotional front – take a sip and a breath. When learning something new – sip and a breath.
to be continued...