Saturday, August 16, 2008
The Breath of God
Taking a slow, deep breath is like a cool drink of water for the mind.
This came to me this morning in yoga class. I've been thinking about breath a lot lately, in my voice lessons and practice, in yoga, when I meditate, and in certain moments of my life when I realize that I am stressed out and not breathing much. This morning I became mindful of my breath in each posture, as if that breath was the final inner flourish that brought it to life. Sheila, my Saturday morning teacher, even said something to this effect: "When you can take a deep breath, you know you're doing the posture correctly."
No one really knows if you're taking deep breath. You can get through your whole life hanging on to your tension, and you won't go to jail or be shunned by your community. It's really your business, your secret.
After yoga, waiting in a slow moving line at the grocery store, I had another thought: whenever I find myself holding my breath, it's because I'm worrying about someone else. Someone who has standards I might not meet, or someone who is going to judge me, or someone who will get upset. With a husband, two small kiddos, and a dog, it's pretty fair to say that someone or other is getting upset with me pretty frequently! I had this thought, and then I took a deep breath. There it was, a cool drink for my mind.
Somehow, I believe that holding onto tension will be a consolation to those judging, upset people. If I can't meet their expectations, so goes my thinking, I can at least show them how hard I'm trying! In this way, just taking that deep breath felt a little rebellious. I felt like I was slacking off somehow, or not being serious about my commitments. Silly, huh? Taking a deep breath wasn't going to change how fast the cashier scanned merchandise, after all.
As I drove home, I imagined all of this invisible pressure coming at my body from the outside. This is a chronic part of motherhood, and it really feels crushing at times. But then I imagined my breath as counter-pressure, a force that pushes back and holds all of that external pressure at bay, then dissipates it. The way to not collapse is to create that space inside of myself, by breathing in that cool drink. Suddenly breath has become prayer!
I had thought earlier that it's your business if you breathe. But that's not really true. I guarantee that, if you start to become more mindful and present, other folks will notice, even if they can't articulate what's different. In fact, I find that the more calm and centered I learn to be, especially in stressful situations, the more people gravitate toward me. And the whole reason why I get so stressed is because people depend upon me! Saying "no", being very decisive about commitments, taking time for self-care, and above all, remembering to breathe are my essential survival tools for being who I want to be in my life.