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Mindful : June 2019
teacher did not acknowl- edge her efforts during class. An uncomfortable realization began to dawn on her: Underneath all her pushing was a pervasive longing for approval, a deep desire to be “seen.” “It was one of the big piv- otal moments for me that made me ask, Why do I push so hard?” she says. That realization prompted an exploration to understand her need to be recognized and validated, why she drove herself to exhaustion and even to the point of illness. She dove deeply into the Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes, if you wish. Take a few long breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Let your body land on the ground. Let your breath arrive in your body. As your breath flows in, feel it move down into your belly. As your breath flows out, let your belly be effor tless. On your inhale, think, “soft,” allowing your belly to receive your breath. On the out breath, think, “belly,” letting go of any holding and resistance. Inhale, “soft.” Exhale, “belly.” Each inhale, imagine your belly being cared for by the breath. Each exhale, let the breath loosen any solidity. Let your breath make room. Let thoughts, emo- tions, sensations rise and fall in and out of a spacious belly. Soft Belly Breathing Since our belly is our emotional center, when we soften it, a variety of feelings, thoughts, images, and memories may bubble up. Welcome all that rises and falls. If you find yourself in conversa- tion with a thought or feeling, simply acknowledge that observation, meet yourself kindly, and draw your mind gen- tly back to the flow of your breath. After 5 to 10 minutes, place your hands on your belly. Feel your breath meeting your hands. Little by little, expand your awareness into the space around you. Close your practice by setting an intention to stay connected to your breath and your belly as you move slowly out of the meditation. — Jillian Pransky PRACTICE Our Stressed Minds and Bodies Pransky understands firsthand the stress faced by the people who come to her classes and workshops. She recog nizes those driven by ambition, those buckling under the weight of their responsibilities or barely balancing on the edge of overwhelm. And she knows well the anxiety that lies just beneath the surface. Anxiety about the future or what’s on the news. About keeping their jobs or about their kid get- ting an F and whether he’ll get into college. “I have rarely met some- one who doesn’t say they’re somewhere on the spectrum of anxiety,” Pransky says. She also hears the opposite, she says, when people believe “stress is their friend.” She relays the story of a former client, the founder of a big nonprofit who began working with her after an accident left him unable to use his legs. “He said, ‘I haven’t felt this at ease and this relaxed in, like, I forget. I forgot this → study of somatic therapy, structural and functional anatomy, and mindfulness. She worked with a Gestalt therapist, “starting to peel the onion” of her personal history, discovering how a troubled relationship with her chronically ill and vol- atile father fueled much of her drive. “ With my training in yoga and somatic therapy, I had tools available to work with to go deeper, and to finally listen.” PHOTOGRAPHCOURTESYOFJILLIANPRANSKY m Soft Belly Breathing Practice Experience a grounded sense of ease and safety by relaxing deeply from your center with Jillian Pransky. mindful.org/ belly- breathing June 2019 mindful 61