I was holding my breath for a couple of days this week, I didn’t know I was, until I breathed out when the news I was hoping for came. Something completely out of my control and nothing I could do. A feeling of dread took hold in the helplessness of it all.
It was a reminder to me of two truths: we are not in the driver’s seat and none of us know what others are really dealing with in their personal lives. Then there is the collision of these two truths, and in my case, it felt like a car skidding in the rain, hoping who ever was driving the car had the ability to get out of the skid. When you are drifting at speed off course and know any sudden brake will make the situation a lot worse, and you aren’t behind the wheel anyhow, going with the conditions is the best option. Being able to do this is highly dependent on your level of fitness for the weather conditions, including the ones that happen without any warning.
Years ago I was flying into the desert of Roxby Downs on a small plane and the skies were glorious. Even though I had been warned that the different temperatures of the air would cause a bumpy landing, the conditions I could see didn’t indicate that to me. Sure enough though, it was a roller coaster to get to ground. It was all in a day’s work for the pilot, but I was less than impressed with the deceptiveness of the beauty of the sky and land. I was taken by surprise. I couldn’t see everything the pilot could see, the instruments, his experience and the relayed data from the ground enabled him to bring us down safely. It really was, all in a day’s work for him. That day I held my breath too and exhaled completely when I got off the plane.
What is it that makes me hold my breath? Fear? Lack of trust? Not being in control? Being too attached? This week was a matter of life and death so I am not giving myself a hard time over that. Reflecting on my breathing though has definitely has got me thinking about what I hold onto and how, and when, and why, I breathe out.
When there has been trauma over many years, all that breath holding, rapid, shallow breathing and adrenalin flooding through the body, it is no wonder that learning to breathe is so vital to recovery and well-being. (I called on box breathing more than once in the 48 hours of stress this week, grateful for the practice to be so close at hand.)
When I was a child I had many an asthma attack and the simple act of breathing was central to my ability to get through. I had two near-death experiences before I was 8. My body knows intimately what it feels like to not be able to breathe.
Remember to breathe, put on your oxygen mask first before helping others, take a deep breath – these are all idioms people who know me will hear me say on a pretty regular basis – this week I was reminded how I got these messages and how I needed to apply them to myself once again. It was a very hard way to re-learn them. Being able to rely on the simplest of acts of the body – to breathe in and out – is a gift and one to be cherished. I have watched many people leave this place, some struggling with their breath, some fighting and gasping, others surrendering. Meeting the moment by remembering to breathe, is the best advice to manage the rain and the skidding car.