A few years back, I woke up in the middle of the night with
a sudden, excruciating cramp in my calf. It lasted for what felt like
endless minutes, getting more and more intense. Flexing my foot wasn’t
helping. I was starting to panic and then my thigh muscle started
cramping up too. Finally they let up, but only for the calf to start
cramping all over again.
It was such a painful and frightening
experience that I was reluctant to go to sleep the next night. And when
I did fall asleep, it happened again, but this time I immediately
started to take some deep breaths and I started talking to the muscle,
coaxing it to relax. That allowed me to respond to the cramp calmly
instead of with fear.
What I found interesting was that once I
let go of the fear and the emotional tension, the cramp was no longer
painful. I was very aware that the muscle in my calf was contracting
powerfully, but it no longer hurt.
The cramps kept coming for
the next few days, but they never hurt again. (Then I decided to
increase my magnesium intake and after that, they stopped coming.)
Since that time, I occasionally wake up with a cramp, but it’s not a
big deal – I just breathe and relax, and it quickly eases up.
One Sunday I got a throbbing pain in my tooth that got worse over time.
It turned out to be an infected root canal – and if you’ve ever had one, you know
we’re talking about some serious pain. None of the pain killers I
tried helped at all, and my dentist wasn’t available until the next
day. So I sat down, put my feet up, and started slow deep breathing,
focusing on the flow of my breath. As long as I stayed relaxed and kept
breathing slowly and deeply, I was able to breathe my way through the
pain until morning when it was time to see the dentist.
I had always had a huge fear of any kind of public speaking. Then, about
20 years ago, I had a job that required me to give talks and lead
workshops for groups of people on a fairly regular basis. The minutes
before the talk or workshop would be the worst – I’d get extremely
anxious – so I’d start watching my breath, slowing it down, and doing
some ocean breathing to calm myself down. Then once I started talking and
connecting to the group, I was fine.
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning, after splashing some
cold water on my face, is meditate. But when I wake up groggy,
it's really hard to get focused, and I tend to drift back to sleep.
So I started doing 4 rounds of 64 fast belly breaths before meditating. I’ve found that it wakes me up and makes my mind more alert.