Equilibrium can refer to balance, but also to different states being equalized. For instance, the cabin pressure of an aircraft is much greater when cruising at altitude than the air outside, where the air is too thin to breathe. Although the Earth’s atmosphere is about 300 miles high, most of the air is in the lowest few thousand feet closest to the surface. In fact, there are 14.7 pounds per square inch of pressure in the atmosphere at sea level, which allows us to breathe normally. As the aircraft descends, the difference between the cabin and atmospheric pressure outside becomes equalized; so that when we exit the aircraft, we don’t notice the difference.
Other examples of managing the equilibrium of different environments are when divers need to take decompression stops as they ascend from depth and space-walking astronauts who spend a day in an airlock chamber acclimatizing their bodies, before opening the door and walking in space.
Similarly, we can all experience internal pressure when we’re feeling stressed or anxious. This can be through physical tension and muscle tightness in our body, restless thoughts in our mind, and unsettling feelings.
Sometimes we’re faced with challenging situations which we have no power to directly influence or resolve. We can find ourselves in a pressurized personal bubble, feeling as if we need to let off steam, but without an outlet. Like a forgotten pressure cooker whistling in the dark, when we’re in this state we can become irritable, intolerant, and heated; not a comfortable place to be. And when we experience this level of stress, we’re more likely to look in the wrong places for a solution, or quick fix.
So, when we’re under pressure, how can mindfulness skills help us discover equilibrium?
- The first step is about becoming aware of the internal pressure as it starts to rise with tension in your body, emotional turbulence or restless thoughts.
- Then using kindness and self-compassion to acknowledge that you may be going through a difficult time.
- Remaining watchful and not dwelling on automatic worrying or negative thoughts.
- Acknowledging and accepting the situation as it really is; exploring options to see if there is any way of resolving any conflict or difficulty.
- Extending your awareness outside to discover and connect with the stillness, space, and silence that’s always in the background; underneath all the sounds, thoughts, movement, and noise.
- Then connecting with the breath and imagining opening a valve to allow the outside to equalize with your experience inside; letting go and releasing tension and tightness as take a deep breath you slowly exhale; allowing the mind to settle and emotions to dissolve, as far as we can.
Practising mindfulness is not about avoiding difficulties in our lives. Consistent practice allows us to change how we relate to these situations and discover the inner resources that help us navigate through life’s challenges with kindness, insight, and equilibrium.
Suggested weekly practice
- Remember to check-in with yourself during the day by asking, “What’s going on for me now?” and see if any internal tension or pressure is building up.
- Connect with nature, sensing the space and openness and see if you can equalise the inner and outer.
- Bring openness, kindness and self-compassion to accept and acknowledge when you’re under pressure.
Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware. There are two guided practices for this session. You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
- Play the settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps
- Then play the second audio to explore and experience finding equilibrium within yourself and the outside world
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