Sit in a chair or on the floor — anywhere works. Bring your hands to your shoulders,
Breathing — particularly deep breathing or what is often called diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing — is a superhighway to the nervous system.Common first-line coping strategies are often to talk ourselves out of this kind of state. “Stop stressing.” “Calm down.” “Think happy thoughts.” But this approach doesn’t necessarily work because our rational, higher-order cognitive functioning more or less shuts down when the sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. The key to regaining a sense of calm when we’re stressed is getting back in touch with our body by intentionally engaging our parasympathetic nervous system. And one of the most immediate ways to do this is with our breath.Conscious breathing is helpful because it is quick and can be done anywhere. The key is to slow your breath from the typical 10–14 breaths per minute to five to seven breaths per minute. An easy way to do this is by inhaling for a count of five, holding the breath briefly, and exhaling for a count of 10. While it’s nice to lay down to enhance your sense of relaxation, this practice can be done in any position.
Physical books have presented us with a similar problem for centuries. The symbols used in natural language are digital, so they could be copied. For that reason, the printing press also liberated information and represented a threat to copyright law. Mind you, prior to mass production, there was no prospect of owning the written word. The ancients saw no ethical breach in writing anonymously in the name of a famous person. We would call that plagiarism, because we have the legal regime to protect at least physical products such as books.
More importantly, digital content isn’t a thing in the required sense, meaning it’s “inexhaustible and non-excludable.” So that labour theory of ownership is inapplicable.The nervous system (aka the autonomic nervous system) is an involuntary and reflexive, “behind-the-scenes” mechanism in our body that helps to keep us alive. Its job is to regulate how our internal organs — like the heart, stomach, and intestines — function. The nervous system has two major branches. One branch is the sympathetic nervous system, which mobilizes our body’s internal resources to take action if there is a threat. The second branch is the parasympathetic nervous system, often called the “rest and digest,” “feed and breed,” and “tend and befriend” system because it dampens sympathetic nervous system responses and keeps our body in a restorative and resting state. There is also a third branch called the enteric system that is confined to the gastrointestinal tract.What we’re doing when we interact with digital content is something much more intimate than the exploitation of material bodies, since we’re accessing extensions of someone’s mind, extensions that have the same apparent nonlocality as the original states of consciousness. In this way, digital content is like a musical performance. If you’re at a concert, you’re not consuming a product so much as interacting almost directly with the musicians. Instead of talking to you and voicing their thoughts, they’re playing instruments and communicating through music.
That’s likely one of the reasons why there’s so much pirating of content, because we know information isn’t like gold or land or other nonrenewable goods, so we know that that by copying a computer file, we’re not really doing anything comparable to breaking into someone’s house and stealing her jewelry or the paintings hanging on her walls.
Calming: Take another deep breath in. Gently press your lips together and make the sound “mmmm” as you breathe out. You want to create the most vibration possible through your whole head from the sound. Now make the sound for as long as you can, and then breathe in again. Do this for eight breaths, paying attention to any vibration feeling in your head.
When we’re stressed, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. Our heart rate and blood pressure rise, our breathing quickens, our muscles tighten, and all nonessential functions, like digestion, become dormant. All these physiological tectonics have a significant effect on our cognition and behavior. For instance, it becomes harder to think clearly, communicate effectively, focus, reason well, and engage with others. It also becomes harder to breathe. This is because the diaphragm is not drawing air into the lungs as it otherwise would, which causes breathing to become shallow. As a result, various muscles in the neck and shoulders kick in to enable breath to flow. The problem is that this “chest breathing” can put the body into a cyclic state of stress because it is both the cause and result of the problem: Stress causes shallow breathing, and shallow breathing causes stress.
Suppose you’re in the wilderness and you pick an apple, but before you can bite into it, someone else comes along and takes the apple from you. Has that person really stolen the apple? Was it yours just because you were the first in reaching up and pulling the apple from the tree? If you think not, you may be intuiting that some physical actions are too trivial to count as work.
Start by lying flat on the ground. Place your right hand over your heart and your left hand on your belly. Notice the places where your body is touching the surface beneath you. Start to notice the rhythm of your breath. Inhale and feel your lungs fill. Exhale and feel your lungs empty. Notice what happens in your body when you focus on your hands — the weight, the temperature, and sensations throughout your body and changes in breathing.
Active: Start by standing and focusing on your breath. Breathe in deeply, and as you exhale, make the sound “shhhh,” as if you’re telling someone to be quiet. (Make it loud.) Pay attention to how it feels in the area between your chest and stomach. Do this until your breath runs out. Then do it again for eight more breaths.
Cellular breathing helps you get grounded and stay present by focusing on the pure sensations of natural breath. It’s a subtle yet powerful way to calm yourself and become centered quickly.We might have expected, then, that our economies would eventually reflect our personal duality. Capitalism’s imperialist pretensions notwithstanding, our minds are freer than our bodies. Capitalism (private ownership, the pursuit of profit by exploitation of limited resources) applies to bodies and to their transformation of the material environment. When applied directly to minds, as in the case of slavery or censorship, the result of capitalism is an obscenity.The ease of copying comes with the technology, so once you’ve worked hard enough to purchase the hardware, capitalism’s work is done. What’s created or shared with the computer, social media, and the internet has transcended the terms of capitalism, since those terms were grounded in the exploitation of nature in all the latter’s exhaustibility and excludability (physicality, hoardability, and so on).
When we’re anxious or in a hyperarousal state, our diaphragm often gets stuck or tight, which limits breathing. Active breathing helps to open it while calming breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, working together to shift us from a hyperarousal stress state to one that is fluid and calm.
Breathing is the most essential human function, and yet it is something we don’t often think about because it’s a reflex action; it happens automatically. But stress can disrupt this natural process. When we’re nervous or hyper-focused, we hold our breath. When we’re overstimulated, it can be difficult to catch our breath. When we try to suppress tears or stifle strong emotions, our breath becomes weak or irregular.
Deep or diaphragmatic breathing (aka eupnea in the scientific community) means that when you inhale, your belly expands or goes outward. When you exhale, your belly caves in. The more your belly expands and the more it caves in, the deeper you’re breathing — which is what you want. Here are a few breathing exercises to help you hold on to air when you’re feeling anxious or stressed.
The difference, though, is that printing presses are large and require a lot of time and effort to use, and you need a steady supply a paper, so that that technology was fit for commercial purposes. The hardware needed to make digital copies — such as the smartphone — has been democratized. You can hold it in your hand and the consumer’s effort required to upload content for the world to see is negligible. Of course, you need the satellites, the fiber-optic cables, and the companies that maintain the systems; plus, you have to work to become a consumer who can afford the hardware.
Likewise, when you watch a recording of a concert on YouTube, you’re not just virtually seeing and hearing what the original audience experienced, but you’re making use of a vessel that has the same ghostly mentality as the musicians’ thoughts which were musically expressed by their instruments. The ease of copying the computer file is analogous to the irrepressibility of human consciousness. Our mind depends on our brain but isn’t confined to that hardware, because we can externalize our thoughts in linguistic or other symbolic forms. Digital symbols happen to be metaphysically apt vessels, since they too are as easily liberated as the minds of consumers in a liberal society that protects our freedom of thought.Next, focus on the hand on your belly. Feel it rise on the exhale and lower on the inhale. Keep doing this and notice what’s happening. Maybe the breath feels cool on the way in and warm on the way out or like your heart has space around it. Imagine a wave cresting and falling, bringing in fresh, clean air, restoring and replenishing the toxins that were being taken out when the wave falls. Feel how your whole body breathes as it gets oxygen. When you’re ready, bring your attention back to your surroundings.One of the most common complaints about anxiety is that it feels like some great beast is stepping on your heart or squeezing it dry like a sponge. So, here’s what to do in order to keep your heart pumping gently and allow it to open in all ways.
The problem is that even if the sharing of digital content calls for a post-capitalistic system of exchange, perhaps emphasizing the strength of social relationships rather than the exploitation of finite resources, there could be no post-capitalistic economy, since the software would have to run on physical hardware which could be bought or sold in the classic fashion.