I hope everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy is doing as well as possible under the circumstances. I thought about writing about ways to stay calm in a disaster, but who am I kidding, that’s way beyond my scope. If you don’t have the basic necessities like food, water, and shelter, it’s pretty hard to offer any words of wisdom.
So I’m scaling it back, and offering the Big Belly Technique–the easiest way I know of to let go of fear and help you relax in under 5 seconds.
The Big Belly Technique
When we’re frightened, anxious, or stressed, our breathing is much more shallow, residing in our upper chest. Want to change that in under 5 seconds? Here’s how the Big Belly Technique works (and yes, I love that name, and no, it won’t make you have a big belly permanently!):
- On the inhale imagine pushing the air from the heart and upper chest down below the navel, sticking out the belly as much as you can
- Hold for a moment
- On the exhale, release the air out slowly
- Repeat for 3 more breaths
By pushing out the belly, you’re able to breathe more deeply and connect to your center, known as the hara in Reiki and many other traditions. (Ask me to show you at the beginning of your next session.)
The Hara and the Tree
The hara is located three fingers below the navel and it’s where our power center is in the body. In a great many spiritual traditions, it’s from this power center that we create a solid foundation from which to grow.
It’s the same idea as a tree (particularly relevant post-storm!). The stronger and more solid the foundation of the roots of the tree, the higher it can grow, extending toward the sky or heavens. Otherwise, each variation of the weather moves the tree around until the smallest gust of wind topples it.
Harada-roshi, one of the most celebrated Zen masters of his day, put it another way in his famous saying: “You must realize”—e.g. make real—”that the center of the universe is the pit of your belly!”
For those of you who have taken a Reiki class, you already know that many of the meditation techniques we learn involve building energy in this area. By connecting to our true nature or center by focusing on the hara, we’re then in a solid place to be able to help others.
In my Reiki I class, one of the very first things you learn is the Purifying Breath Technique. It’s another easy, great way to connect to your hara. Ask me to show you at your next session; similar to the Big Belly Technique it’s simple to learn and practice and is a great way to focus and center yourself no matter what’s going on.