Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.
Thích Nhất Hạnh
In the ebb and flow of life when challenging circumstances arise I tend to return to the basics of my yoga and meditation practice. So in week 2 of my federally unemployed husbands "vacation" combined with a super slow week at Quiet and a silly head cold I have really pared down my practice to a few sun salutations and the Breathwords mantra "Breathing In/Breathing Out".So these past two weeks my meditation has been simply to sit and watch my breathing body as I think the words "breathing in and breathing out" with each breath. I anticipated this practice to kind of be a "place holder" to allow me to not lose too much ground in my inner spiritual work while I deal with worldly problems. Instead the beautiful simplicity of the practice has really reinforced a few lessons I need to remember all the time.
First, when things go awry like most people I tend to write stories. A simple example is instead of just noticing the car that cut me off on the highway I would write a story in my head about the driver that went something like "this person must be an entitled ass who doesn't care about my life". In reality there are a 1000 possibilities why they cut me off, Perhaps they simply didn't see me and they are not actually an evil villain. Writing stories while comforting in the moment just tend to exacerbate the situation inflaming emotions and hooking out minds into unhealthy patterns. So, this week in dealing with a challenge before I could begin my story I asked myself what was actually true and the only truth I could find in the moment was that I was "breathing in and breathing out". What a relief to release the need to write a novella about a small annoyance and instead just carry on with breath.
The second lesson I re-remembered was what my actual to do list contains: breathing! Sometime building a small business catapults me into frantic "to do" mode. I would have more students if I did this or did that I tell myself sternly. Just go market a little more and all will be well a little voice in my head offers up non helpfully. Well, while it is important to take care of the business in front of us it is not helpful to load ourselves down with to do lists long enough to choke the life out of us. So what is it that we really need to do today? You guessed it "breathing in and breathing out". But I have to go to work and cook dinner for my children you argue. No you don't. You either need to do these things OR suffer the consequences of not doing them and while unemployment and hungry kids may be ugly consequences I will still argue that you do not NEED to do these things. Simplify by remembering that all you have to do today is breath and make everything else optional. This will expand your breathing space big time.
The third thing I remembered with my simple mantra was that every breath we take is taken in present moment. While our minds ping around temporally and emotionally our breathing body is always in present moment. So when I notice this breath in this moment I don't have mental space for romanticizing the past or catastrophizing the future. When we notice the present moment we notice that we are safe and secure in the moment and that our doubts and fears live in the past and future. If you are truly in danger in the present moment you are beyond just noticing it and rather are in flow responding to it. This blog on re-remembering lessons may not be earth shattering news, but I will not write a mental story about how I should have made it more exciting. I will not give myself a to do list of writing a more amazing blog and I will not predict into the future that you read it and yawned. Rather I will "breath in and breath out" and be here in this moment. It may not be my most beautiful moment ever but it is not the ugliest either and remembering that both our joys and sorrows are Gods gifts always makes me breath a little deeper.