CAUDILL: In a difficult time, get outside and breathe
“I force my mind to concentrate and keep it from straying to things outside of itself; all outdoors may be bedlam, provided that there is no disturbance within.”
That is the response the Stoic philosopher Seneca gave to a friend when he was asked how he accomplished his goals during the rancorous noise that surrounded him.
It sounds like amazing advice in his world, and amazing advice for the world in which we find ourselves now.
I am not going to even use the “C” word in this column. I believe we have all heard it enough.
What I am going to do is share some things I believe will help each of us find some calm during this situation.
The first recommendation (no surprise I am sure) is to do something, anything in which you can find yourself in a natural setting. You may live in an apartment building and don’t have access to any natural surroundings. Make some time to get in a grassy area somewhere and walk barefoot or just sit down — a yard, a park or a field somewhere.
Follow all the recommendations to stay local and use social distancing, but please find some time to get outside.
On my website at naturereliance.org is a blog piece entitled “Scientific Proof You Need to Be Outside.” In it I have a list of dozens of articles, blogs and research papers I have accumulated over the years that prove the value of time outside in nature. Check it out.
More importantly, get outside. It is good for you.
The second recommendation I have for you falls right on the heels of the first. A good question would be, what in the world do you do once you are there? That one is easy, sort of. All I want you to do is breathe. Yeah, breathe. That is it.
This is all going to sound rather hokey, but it is the same method I taught U.S. Special Forces to do many years when I was tasked to help them learn how to relax during stressful times. The U.S. Army thought it important enough to hire me to teach this. You should take this free advice.
I want you to breathe in a specific way. It sounds simple, so give it a try. I believe this is one of the benefits many people used to get by sitting on the front porch and waving at neighbors back in the day.
Take 10 big breaths and don’t think about anything other than those 10 big breaths. If you have thoughts of anything, pretend they are transient and passing through. They come into your mind and then travel right on out.
Focus on your breath. If you want some physical hints, then follow these guidelines. Sit somewhere that is comfortable — on the ground, in a chair. I don’t really care. Then put your hands on your abdomen with your fingers almost touching.
When you breathe in through your nose, do it slowly and deliberately. Feel your breath expanding your belly and your hands rising.
When you breathe out, do it slowly and deliberately. Feel your hands falling towards your spine.
Your belly expands because you are getting breath into the lower portion of your lungs. Most of the time we do not use our lungs to this full capacity. This is one of several reasons we hold tension in our upper bodies and get headaches. You don’t want a headache, do you? This will help.
Lastly, notice the ebb and flow of nature around you. This does not have to be in the midst of the woods, full on nature or similar. For many years I did this in downtown Winchester every night.
As many of my readers know, I used to teach martial arts in downtown. Every night, I would spend some time in and outside our location just taking a moment to stop and breathe and see what kinds of things I could see.
During that time, I saw the places that raccoons like to live, owls like to roost and other critters you would expect to see in a small city. They have a rhythm there, no different than they do in the middle of the woods.
Most of us look at nature as being something rather random, and in some ways it is. But in many others, it is all rather organized and has a very certain order.
We must simply take time to stop, breathe, watch and listen.
No matter where you find yourself these days. Make time to get outside and ease your mind.
If you do, your decision making will be clearer, your mind will be less stressed, and you will be kinder and gentler to those around you.
The current situation is going to get worse before it gets better. There is going to be a wave of things to understand and deal with.
If you follow these three recommendations you will find yourself riding on top of the wave, rather than being crushed below it. Surf it, my friend, and enjoy.
Sometime soon, I hope to see you on, or off, the trail.
Craig Caudill is a lifelong resident of Winchester and serves as director of Nature Reliance School. He is the author of “Extreme Wilderness Survival,” “Ultimate Wilderness Gear” and “Essential Wilderness Navigation.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through any of the various social media platforms available.
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