The Cook Awakening

The Breath

November 29, 2018
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Seasonal Change, Spiritual Practice

We’re in that chute again. My husband and I call it “Slogging toward Solstice”. It’s dark at 4:30 pm, it’s colder, it’s wet outside, and for some of us, there’s snow on the ground.

Right when there’s an internal calling at the end of the day (or beginning, for that matter) to build a fire, snuggle up with a good book or watch a good show, many of us also feel the reality of a busier calendar. I remark on it to myself every year. Why is there so much to DO?!

That internal tension can be uncomfortable. If you’re like a lot of people, you feel pressure to show up to events. It’s a whole train of family gatherings (hello Thanksgiving), classes, meetings, school fundraisers, shopping, concerts, holiday parties are coming up, ….

You may not be able to do anything about the schedule, you may truly be committed and possibly even looking forward to most of what’s on your calendar. And, especially if you’re living with a diagnosis, or if you’re grieving the death of a loved one, just barreling through this season without remembering to breathe is a recipe for crashing burnout. You truly might not be able to make it through without completely shutting down.

I know. I’ve been there.

So, what’s a human to do?

Find your breath.

Sound too simple? Check this out.

When my kids were elementary age, their school was across town. We had to drive in rush hour in the morning. On top of that, one of our kids was nearly NEVER ready when it was time to go.

I would get tense. I’d try to control my temper, but it would usually leak out somewhere on the kids, and we’d have these deadly silent drives after my exasperated outbursts.

One day, I remembered — I know how to meditate. A primary form of meditation is awareness of breathing. I was completely ignoring one of the most basic tools in my tool kit.

Humbled, I began to check in with my physical sensations. What did “tense” actually feel like in my body? I had time to check in, my kids were still getting ready. Or, I was driving. What I was doing was not taking all my attention. What was taking all my attention were my frustrated thoughts.

In the center of all of that swirl of rigid, clenched, resistant sensations, were sensations of breathing. Reliable. Always available. Expansion and contraction.

Through checking in with the physical feelings of breathing, my tense, blaming mind would calm down. I’d realize pretty quickly that my anger and frustrations weren’t getting us to school any faster. They were just upsetting me and making my kids feel guilty.

So, what does this have to do with the busy holidays during the dark time of year?

Everything. Here’s part of what was actually happening with our school commute — I was resisting what was happening. And, I was able to use my physical sensations to connect with the resistance, and then with my breath.

What often happens in the quickening holiday rush, is we get caught up in thoughts of what we think should be happening. Whether that’s “I have to get ready for the next, and next, and next event” with a sensation of leaning forward or holding on, (when the reality is it may be too much for this human to accomplish), or “I’m tired, I’m sad, I wish I didn’t have to do anything” with a sensation of leaning away or resisting, (when there are actually things that we really need to do for a variety of reasons). Or both at the same time. Ouch.

Here’s a way to access what’s true in the moment — connect with physical sensations. Starting with how that leaning forward or back feels, and circling around in the body until you find the sensations of breathing.

Breathing consciously is a balm to the nervous system. Experimenting with deepening the breathing is soothing. There’s lots of research that confirms this. And, like the best friend of your dreams, it will be there reliably until the day you die.

There’s so much to say about the breath, but this is a good start. I invite you to take your breath for a test drive. See how you like it! Is it dependable? Stable? Good on curves? It may not be the sportiest spiritual technique, but it will last you a long time.

Let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear!

By the way, my annual New Year offering begins now, and is good through the end of January, 2019. For new clients who sign up from now to the end of January, your first month of counseling is half price, when you commit to 3 months of working together. If you want to have weekly sessions, your first 4 sessions are half price. If we agree on bi-weekly sessions, your first two sessions are half price. Learn more here.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2018 at 1:11 pm and is filed under Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Seasonal Change, Spiritual Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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