Do you remember the concept "Inverse Relationship" from your childhood mathematics class? I do.
Functional immunity and stress have an inverse relationship. When stress is high your functional immunity is low, and vice-versa. Right about now we all need our immune systems operating on a high level of “functionality” so it’s important to keep your stress levels low.
Who knew that old concept we all learned as children would have such a powerful meaning in our adult lives?
Join me for The 30 Day Relaxation Challenge.
Each day I will post an approach to keeping our collective stress low on this blog and on my facebook page.
Day 1: “Not Now”
The Practice: notice when you are having a negative or fearful thought, and quietly say to yourself “not now”.
The What: The mind has a habit of being on a past-future orientation, sliding forward and backwards in time, while the body is generally always dealing with now. I say generally because body armor or chronic muscular tension is often of another time (see my blog post, Unwinding Childhood Conditioning: A Neuromuscular Journey Home). When we can bring our thoughts into the present moment, we are more honestly aligned with the moment and, more honestly aligned within ourselves.
The Why: When you bring yourself more honestly into the present moment you enable your body “to begin” the process of activating the relaxation response. At a minimum you can evoke a sense of ease when you do not get ahead of yourself or linger in past moments with no “re-do” in site.
The How: When you notice you are engaged in negative thinking or mulling over a negative thought just silently say to yourself “Not Now” as a way of shooing the thought away. And say “Not Now” as many times as you need to begin to develop your spiritual muscle of self-kindness.
Meditation, a tool I have used for over 30 years, is a nice concept to engage in times of stress and, managing your thoughts, calling yourself to disrupt the negativity that is swirling in your mind is a pre-cursor to meditation actually being a respite for what ails.
Day 2: Conscious Chewing
The Practice: When you take a bite of food, begin by feeling it on your tongue for about 5 seconds (your first pause) to allow your saliva to begin to build. Then chew your food 10 times and stop (your second pause).
If you are comfortable with this second “pause” then chew for another round of 10 chews, pause and then either swallow or “pause and chew” again until you feel it’s time to swallow. Continue with this alternating pattern of pausing and chewing for your entire meal or snack.
If you are not comfortable with this second “pause”, then swallow your food and take another bite. Again, begin by feeling whatever you are eating on your tongue for 5 seconds, chew for 10 chews and pause. Notice if you are comfortable with this pause after you chew on this second go-around. If not, swallow your food and continue in this fashion of taking a bite, waiting 5 seconds, chewing 10 times, pause and swallow. For you, just focus on getting comfortable with “the pause”. Take a bite, wait 5 seconds, chew 10 times, pause and swallow. Again, just continue in this fashion until you are comfortable with this “second pause” and can easily resume chewing your food for a second round of 10 mastications.
If you are thinking “is she asking me to make my chewing a meditation?” You would be correct. Take your mind off the world while you are eating and put it in your mouth, literally, as you are chewing your food. Whether that’s a full meal or a snack.
The What: Enlist the process of conscious chewing as a helpful precursor to set yourself up for success with a style of meditation called conscious eating. If you’re thinking “Huh?” You would not be alone; you may be social distancing but you are definitely not alone.
Basically I am inviting you to slow down and enjoy eating your food as a moment of celebration and common unity.
We all eat and even if you are eating alone, this is something that all living things do in one fashion or another, everyday.
Everything that lives, eats.
The Why: So more than feeling the connection with all living things, this meditation is in service of efficient digestion: chemical and mechanical digestion.
Chemical digestion is initiated by the saliva we are generating with our “pause” and mechanical digestion is accomplished by breaking our food down with “chewing”.
As expressed in mathematics, these two processes have a “direct relationship” on the efficiency of digestion. When you increase your chemical-mechanical influence, you increase your digestive systems efficiency. When you limit your chemical-mechanical influence, you limit your digestive systems efficiency.
The How: Digestion begins in your mouth when your salivary gland makes saliva, a digestive juice that contains the enzyme amylase, which begins the process of breaking down the carbohydrates and starches in the food you just put in your mouth.
So waiting 5 seconds gives your salivary gland an opportunity to do its job.
Mastication, a physiological term for “chewing”, then further breaks down your food into smaller pieces so it can more easily travel through your esophagus down into your stomach. But here’s the kicker, most of us do not chew our food enough so our stomach has to work extra hard because the mouth didn’t do it fair share of the work, hence the second pause for more saliva to arrive and the second round of chewing 10 times.
Conscious chewing, which leads to conscious eating, can help us to get in touch with any deeper feelings-thoughts-needs that we may be trying to fill with food that would be better served if we learned how to engage our nervous system from a positive place of ease. Learning how to relax, and to how relax your jaw, is a worthy practice that will transform each and every one of your relationships, especially the relationship you have with your Self.