For today’s card, I focused on what occurs at the intersection of inhalation and exhalation of a breath. It seems to me there is a world of possibility between the moment we soak in our surroundings through our senses, and the moment we create and express the perceptions those senses have left on us. A holy pause, filled with both eagerness and sorrow, is ours.
I’ve had moments in my life where I wanted to pause time, where the laughter, music and camaraderie was so pleasant I wanted to cling to it forever. Many more breathes have been halting and shallow, wishing I could speed things up so that I would never have to experience the darkness, the pain and the disconnection I felt then and there. Every breath moves on, though, to the next, until there is no next. We only have the rhythm of our lungs and our heart to sustain us.
As I’ve learned to slow and more fully appreciate the sensory experiences the world has to offer, it has opened new spaces inside me for imagination, creativity and deeper observation. I tended to get lost in my ruminations–the same three rumbles of thunder clashing again and again, perceiving every sensation as a threat–or to rush so quickly from one breath to another that I scarce know how my lungs filled. It is only through deliberate practice that I come into the fullness of my capacity to breath; it’s not my nature but it might be our collective nature into which I’ve tapped. I’ve found in this inner universe much more grace and compassion than I anticipated, as well as a sense that time isn’t the essence of our lives but merely a companion to our journey. What is your relationship with the in-breath and the out-breath? What meets you in the inflection point in between each?
When I first started practicing mindfulness meditation at a Buddhist center years ago, I was confused when the person leading the session mentioned the pauses between breaths. It had never occurred to me that there could be a break between an in-breath and an out-breath! My vision for this year has included spending time in awareness of the space between the out-breath and the in-breath, as I think that it is the expansive moment of inflection I most need to allow into my life.
For today’s simple pleasure, I took time to count my breaths. I started with a count of four in, hold, out, hold but quickly became light-headed, so I shifted to four in, hold two, out four, hold two which I found relaxing and calming. I can breathe in and hold my breath for much longer than I can breath out and wait before inhaling. This matches my personality exactly, as I am more on the side of rigidity and withdrawing into myself than I am on loosing and engaging, especially when I am stressed. Breathing is the pace of our life; I desire for my pacing to become more balanced and rounded instead of sharp and drawn. What is your relationship with your breath?
I’m someone who is much more faithful with exercising than I am with the “cool down” stretch that is supposed to come afterwards. A purchase I made this year that has made all the difference in keeping me stretching was when I bought different sizes of Chirp Plexus Wheels (I am not associated with nor am I an affiliate of the company that manufacturers them). I use the largest size wheel to ease into stretching out my back. My spine cracked in multiple places the first time I used a friend’s, which is what sold me on it. The middle-sized one has proven useful in doing assisted back-bends; my upper body and core strength as well as my flexibility is insufficient to do them on my own. Finally, the smallest wheel allows me to stretch my neck and hip areas.
I paired today’s simple pleasure of stretching using my wheels with the mediation music video I’ve embedded in this post. The combination made me “crave” the smell of incense or a candle burning from past classes I’ve taken, but I instead refocused myself on stretching. Today has been a rough day so I didn’t feel especially relaxed when I finished, but I did find myself centering on my breath at the end which is something I completely forget to do whenever I am stressed. What is your favorite stretch? What equipment (if any) helps you get the most out of your stretches?