Sunday, January 8, 2012

Breathing and Crying Makes Us Human

It’s amazing how we develop habits that are damaging for us. With our superior intelligence, we continue to fail ourselves by neglecting what makes us human. As we get older and become more educated, rather than becoming wiser, sometimes we manage to forget what children naturally know. No matter how hard times get, we should never forget that we’ve been put on this world to experience life as people – as people with feelings and desires.

Fear gets a bad rep because of the damage it causes in people, but that’s only because we damage the function fear’s supposed to serve. Fear is an innate trait in us because it can protect us and keep us alive. Yet we abuse it. We’re fortunate in the animal kingdom to possess higher intelligence AND intuition. But it’s like we’ve extracted all of the negative consequences we can get out of them and wear that and continue to attract and mirror other people who do the same. What kind of shit is that? I mean, really, think about it for a moment.

Crying is seen as weak when really it’s caused by intense emotional experiences. But not every emotional experience is negative. And yet even the good tears are generally responded with people rolling their eyes. Most of us have an involuntary response of resisting or suppressing the act of crying. Crying is a natural reaction, and we’ve developed an unnatural, involuntary defense against it.

I know I have. And lately I’ve been doing it more than I have in a really long while. I usually feel better afterwards, too, but I can’t shake my desperation to keep it all in. Today I came across an article that gave “7 Good Reasons to Cry: The Healing Properties of Tears”. I’ll attach the details at the end of this entry, but I want to get my point across first.

I realized I’m making the same mistake with crying as I did with breathing. I’m about to start sounding special real soon, but it is what it is. I don’t have the best breathing habits, and it does have to do with my past and upbringing. I was exposed to a lot of stress, but I’m an adult now. Aside from the fact that my past is a part of me, I’m no longer in that kind of an environment. But I’ve carried over my negative habits of negligent breathing.

As an adult, I attempted my first breathing exercise. It left me hyperventilating and my pupils became dilated. Apparently my body wasn’t used to that much oxygen that it had the adverse effect much in the same way people who are used to drinking dirt water die from drinking fresh water because extreme changes in exposure has a way of shocking us. Breathing is necessary and beneficial. It’s what keeps us alive. But it’s understandable to deduce that I should eliminate anything from my life that leaves me debilitated.

Obviously, I didn’t give up breathing all together. But it was six or seven years later that I explored breathing meditation again. It was after a good friend of mine found me impressing for being able to reach an altered state of mind through breathing because most people take drugs to get that affect. I guess it was evident in my dilated pupils. I’m not suggesting everyone tries to get a high.

My point is that I single-mindedly eliminated something positive from my life because of one isolated negative experience. I imagine we all do that, and we shouldn’t. When bad things contaminate something good, which is sometimes inevitable, I have to learn to navigate within that stew of emotions. I shouldn’t just avoid it all together.

I do breathing meditations now, but I don’t do it as often as others do. I’m careful and I go slowly. I take breaks. Yes, breaks from breathing. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s better than feeling uneasy, high, and on the verge of passing out. Over time I’ve learned to breathe regularly without experiencing any problems.

Much in the same way, I must learn how to cry and break down the barriers that are keeping me from being human. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and I hate admitting that I’m sad when I can distract and delay the effects as much as possible. But that’s another short-sighted perspective I have to abandon if I want to grow and evolve as a person. When I need a reminder, I have the picture attached to this entry. I was crying and when I got up, I saw that my tears made a heart shape. It's beautiful and it reminds me of what makes me human. It also symbolizes to me that there's beauty in sadness.

7 Good Reasons to Cry: The Healing Properties of Tears

1. Tears help us see.

Starting with the most basic function of tears, they enable us to see. Literally. Tears not only lubricate our eyeballs and eyelids, they also prevent dehydration of our various mucous membranes. No lubrication, no eyesight. Writes Bergman: “Without tears, life would be drastically different for humans — in the short run enormously uncomfortable, and in the long run eyesight would be blocked out altogether.”

2. Tears kill bacteria.

No need for Clorox wipes. We’ve got tears! Our own antibacterial and antiviral agent working for us, fighting off all the germs we pick up on community computers, shopping carts, public sinks, and all those places the nasty little guys make their homes and procreate. Tears contain lysozyme, a fluid that the germ-a-phobic dreams about in her sleep, because it can kill 90 to 95 percent of all bacteria in just five to 10 minutes! Which translates, I’m guessing, to three months’ worth of colds and stomach viruses.

3. Tears remove toxins.

Biochemist William Frey, who has been researching tears for as long as I’ve been searching for sanity, found in one study that emotional tears–those formed in distress or grief–contained more toxic byproducts than tears of irritation (think onion peeling). Are tears toxic then? No! They actually remove toxins from our body that build up courtesy of stress. They are like a natural therapy or massage session, but they cost a lot less!

4. Crying can elevate mood.

Do you know what your manganese level is? No, neither do I. But chances are that you will feel better if it’s lower because overexposure to manganese can cause bad stuff: anxiety, nervousness, irritability, fatigue, aggression, emotional disturbance and the rest of the feelings that live inside my happy head rent-free. The act of crying can lower a person’s manganese level. And just like with the toxins I mentioned in my last point, emotional tears contain 24 percent higher albumin protein concentration — responsible for transporting many small molecules (which has to be a good thing, right?) — than irritation tears.

5. Crying lowers stress.

Tears really are like perspiration in that exercising and crying both relieve stress. For real. In his article, Bergman explains that tears remove some of the chemicals built up in the body from stress, like the endorphin leucine-enkaphalin and prolactin, the hormone I overproduce because of my pituitary tumor that affects my mood and stress tolerance. The opposite is true too. Bergman writes, “Suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and peptic ulcers.

6. Tears build community.

In her “Science Digest” article, writer Ashley Montagu argued that crying not only contributes to good health, but it also builds community. I know what you’re thinking: “Well, yeah, but not the right kind of community. I mean, I might ask the woman bawling her eyes out behind me in church what’s wrong or if I can help her, but I’m certainly not going to invite her to dinner.”

I beg to differ. As a prolific crier, especially on video, I always come away astounded by the comments … the resounding support of people I know all that well, and the level of intimacy exchanged among them. Read for yourselves some of the comments on both my self-esteem video and my recent death and dying video and you’ll appreciate my point. Tears help communication and foster community.

7. Tears release feelings.

Even if you haven’t just been through something traumatic or are severely depressed, the average Jo goes through his day accumulating conflicts and resentments. Sometimes they gather inside the limbic system of the brain and in certain corners of the heart. Crying is cathartic. It lets the devils out. Before they wreak all kind of havoc with the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Writes John Bradshaw in his bestseller Home Coming: “All these feelings need to be felt. We need to stomp and storm; to sob and cry; to perspire and tremble.” Amen, Brother Bradford!

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