Mindful and Reflective Moments

Shenette Scille - “Taking Back Your Breath”

April 07, 2021 Vassar College Season 1 Episode 4
Mindful and Reflective Moments
Shenette Scille - “Taking Back Your Breath”
Chapters
Mindful and Reflective Moments
Shenette Scille - “Taking Back Your Breath”
Apr 07, 2021 Season 1 Episode 4
Vassar College

Breathing is an innate ability that we as humans have. However, sometimes when we are experiencing stress, injustice, being in a constant mode of survival, and an intense sense of overwhelm, our natural rhythm of breathing is compromised. Through this mindfulness practice, learn to take back your breath and increase your sense of wellness and well-being.



Show Notes Transcript

Breathing is an innate ability that we as humans have. However, sometimes when we are experiencing stress, injustice, being in a constant mode of survival, and an intense sense of overwhelm, our natural rhythm of breathing is compromised. Through this mindfulness practice, learn to take back your breath and increase your sense of wellness and well-being.



Speaker 1:

Welcome to Mindful and Reflective Moments and thank you for joining us. In each episode, a Vassar College community member will share a mindfulness practice and explore how their practice sustains them during these uncertain times. We hope that you enjoy the podcast and find it helpful and meaningful.

Shenette Scille:

Hi, everyone. My name is Shenette Scille. I am one of the staff therapists in Counseling Service. It is no secret that we are living in challenging times, and sometimes it's really hard for us to figure out how do we both continue to fight for change and still take care of ourselves. One of the things that has been plaguing our society not just recently, but for years, is social injustice, particularly for our Black and African-American communities and other people of color. Most recently, the biggest thing that has been kind of plaguing the news and social media is the hashtag I can't breathe. When we think about that, we think about what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to live. Part of that is being able to breathe. So for a really long time, our Black and African-American communities weren't necessarily seen as human.

Shenette Scille:

As I watched the news and watched a protest and what we all are fighting for, which is social justice, it makes me think about how important breathing is, how important Black Lives Matter, that hashtag, that movement is. I think about how we respond to trauma and sometimes with trauma, there's a numb response. There's mixed emotions, anger, sadness, pain. Many times there's a push to just find purpose and meaning, to reengage with our body, sometimes feeling as if our body's failed us. In this case, sometimes it's feeling like society has failed us, but it's important for us to also think about how can we balance, find balance in our lives. When we're able to find balance, we're able feel re-energized and to be able to continue to take action and to do the things that are important to us.

Shenette Scille:

I think about one of the ways that I try to find balance during this time. Honestly, it is hard because we are being plagued each moment by things that are going on, but one of the things I turn to is this concept called mindfulness. I think about it even more when I think about the hashtag, can't breathe. The reason why I started to think about it is because really it's almost like trying to reclaim that power and that control over breath because feeling like, as a black woman, society is trying constantly to take that away from us. So no, we may not be able to control everything in our lives, but I like to sometimes focus on the things that I can control even if it is for a moment. Mindfulness gave that to me.

Shenette Scille:

So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is intentionally bringing curiosity, compassion, attention, and openness to one's experience in the present moment. It's being able to cultivate awareness of our mind and body. It's important to be aware of what's going on in our body and to have our mind and body be in communication. It brings about harmony and equanimity. When we're able to have that, it can increase our ability to focus and to learn what we need to take care of ourselves. Our bodies can give us a lot of information and so when we're constantly working, constantly on the go, there are times when our bodies need some time to just chill, to relax, to recharge. Mindfulness is a practice that can allow us to do that. We each can be mindful and we can be mindful in many different ways, and it's finding what you connect to in terms of being present in your experience.

Shenette Scille:

So one of the ways that I try to reclaim something that I feel is often taken is think about how do I connect to my breath? What does it mean to breathe? And what is the flow of my breath in certain aspects of my day? When I'm able to ground myself in my breath, I'm able to find that recharge and then to go about my day continuing to fight for change and also continuing to find the balance between self-care, self-love, self-compassion.

Shenette Scille:

So there's a few ways that I've found helpful in terms of just breathing meditation, focus breathing, and deep breathing. So I want to walk you all through a breathing meditation and being able to use this in your life in a time when you do feel like you need to feel grounded or feel like you just need a break, feel like you need some balance, and keeping in mind that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. The purpose of mindfulness is to be in your experience without trying to change it in any way or to have a special certain kind of experience, but just being with it. Think about the concept of being and not doing.

Shenette Scille:

So begin by finding a comfortable position, one in which your neck and your back are supported. Think about what it means to feel settled into your body in that moment, in this moment. You might choose to close your eyes or lower your gaze or focus on a spot in the room. Just begin by getting to know your body, noticing any tension, tightness, starting to move different body parts. Maybe start by rolling your shoulders slowly forward and then rolling your shoulders back, leaning your head from side to side, lowering your left ear towards your left shoulder and then your right ear towards your right shoulder, and just begin to relax your muscles.

Shenette Scille:

Now, observe your breathing right now. Notice your body's ability to have air flowing in and out and not making any effort right now to change your breathing in any way, but just noticing how your body breathes. Notice how air flows in and out and being confident that your body knows how much air it needs. As you sit quietly, see it in your mind's eye, your breath flowing gently in and out of your body. In this moment, allow yourself to breathe in self-compassion and then being able to breathe out gratitude towards yourself. As you're in this meditation, your mind is likely to wander. That's completely fine. As your attention wanders, just gently bring your focus back to your breathing. You may notice any stray thoughts, but don't dwell on them. Just simply let them pass as if they are floating on a cloud or floating down a river, and then bring in your attention right back to your breathing.

Shenette Scille:

See how your breath continues to flow deeply, calmly. Notice the changes and the stages of a complete breath from your in breath to the pause that follows, your exhale, and the pause before taking another breath. Notice as you breathe how that might radiate throughout your body, maybe sinking more into your body and the awareness of your mind and your body. See the slight breaks between each breath. Feel the air entering through your nose. Picture your breath flowing through the cavities and your senses and then down to your lungs. Once again as thoughts intrude, which they might, just allow them to pass and gently returning your attention to your breathing.

Shenette Scille:

See the air inside your body after you inhale, feeling your body gently. Notice how the space inside your lungs becomes smaller after you exhale and the air leaves your body, feeling your chest and stomach gently rise and fall with each breath. You might even place your hand over your stomach and feeling your stomach gently rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Now as you inhale, count silently one. As you exhale, count one. Wait for the next breath and count again. One, exhale, one, inhale, one, exhale, one. Continue to count each inhalation and exhalation as one. Notice now how your body feels. See how calm and gentle your breathing is, how relaxed your body feels.

Shenette Scille:

Now is the time to gently reawaken your body and your mind. Keeping your eyes closed or your gaze lowered, just notice the sounds around you. Feel the floor beneath you. Feel your clothes against your body. Start to wiggle your fingers and your toes. Shrug your shoulders. Now, open your eyes and remain seated for a few moments longer, stretching out your legs. Stretch your arms and legs gently. Sit for a moment, just enjoying how you feel in this moment, experiencing your body reawaken, your mind returning to its usual level of alertness. Think about what it's like to feel energized, knowing that you can bring this feeling with you throughout the rest of your day, and once again thinking about how this exercise can allow you to feel some sense of control in a world that many times we feel we don't have much control.

Shenette Scille:

I wish you all health, safety, wellness, but also empowerment, courage, continuing to connect with those who are important to you, people you care about, people who support you, stand with you. Let's continue to unify ourselves to bring about change, to bring about love and care, to bring about equality, and to know that we all deserve to be loved and respected and we all need to fight for the lives of our Black and African-American communities, to stand with them, to support them, to love them. So I want to close out with a famous line from the great Bob Marley. One love.

Speaker 1:

Mindful and Reflective Moments is brought to you by the Vassar College Counseling Service, the Office of Health Promotion and Education, the Office of Student Growth and Engagement, and the Office of Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices.