Tag Archives: breath

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #13

The mood for change is in the air. It is arriving with cooler, crisper breezes just after sunset, promising the next season is calibrating before it settles in. Voters have done the first of three invitations this year to have a say on governance, we’ve done the State, next up is the national and before year end there will be the municipal elections too. Electoral exhaustion might set in. Twenty years ago, social researcher Hugh Mackay analysed thousands of interviews with Australians as they landed into the next millennium. He noted issues of control and anxiety being supported by a renovation revolution, fitness, tattoos and body-piercings. His review of 2020 as the pandemic took hold reflected on the kindness revolution unfolding and it is that mood of the nation I hope is reflected in the polls as the year unfolds, I am optimistic.

We have learnt to that turning to our neighbours in times of crisis is our best bet. We have learnt this through droughts, bushfires, floods and a pandemic. Acts of kindness add up, as we saw with the documentation of the Kindness Pandemic lead by Dr Catherine Barrett that captivated a nation. I am wondering how this invisible thread of generosity will continue to show up as the pandemic eases and what we will take with us into the next twenty years?  This decade being the decade where we have no time to lose. Kindness to future generations will require our mood to be hopeful, sincere, pragmatic and impatient for change. I know there are many people that can’t wait to get to the next ballot box.

The dreadful discovery this week of microplastics in human blood had me reeling especially in relation to babies and placentas. Invisible and ever present, setting the conditions for a new kind of science fact-ion. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not there. This season in our human condition where plastics attach to our blood may lead us to challenges in our breathing. The breath is certainly front and centre of so much right now from meditation to COVID, our lungs and the green lungs of the planet are intertwined and breathing in and out, a most visible and invisible act, is pivotal to our personal and collective well being. No kindness without breath in the body. The invitation to take a deep breath to face a next step, to calm down, to steady yourself for action is at hand.

Watching someone struggle to get their breath, literally drowning, is what we are doing at scale as we watch the waters rise in our collective lungs. I sometimes muse on the idea if we could all just breath well collectively maybe this would bring in more kindness, and through those invisible breaths bring forth a heavy sigh, so we can all face what is being called for right now in our neighbourhoods, our towns, our countries and our planet. The breath may be the super power to unleash a kindness revolution. The breath always hosts the potential to change our mood.

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Meeting the Moment 2021 #49

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.

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Promises to tomorrow #50 #birth-day

When you arrive at a new threshold of the next year of your life unfolding, one of the traditions is to blow out the candles, to be lit up by what’s past and then to make a wish in that moment of darkness. The birth day is just that – a promise in darkness – coming into light – recurring each year. It is heralded by a long wait, labour pains of another while you arrive through an opening often helped by others supporting your mother. We give this moment a special place in our year, it defines us as a tribe on the zodiac, a season, a destiny. Everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born according to David Whyte.

On the eve of birth, an experience I have had more than once, the physicality or being prised open to allow new life to come forth, is pain with breath and blood eventually settling into a rhythm and a quickening that ends whether we welcome the arrival or not. And so on this eve, as my love would have been 60 in the morn, I think of his mother labouring and his arrival being met with a little disappointment that their fourth child was another boy – she had longed for a girl for more than the nine months, in fact years and years. He. Arrived. Already not meeting expectations, wiped away quickly, but the story remained in the family narrative. How many stories do we have hanging on us, even before we have started to make our own, even before our birth-day?

Unfolding into a new year, the old one is not left behind, it oozes in and has already left a fingerprint, forecasts and predictions are enabling decisions, the future is already in the diary. Not all birthdays are welcomed. There are the times with the new year arriving is heralding a beginning or an ending of a time that is not yet over or not yet ready to commence.

On this eve of his birthday, one he can no longer celebrate, one that for others arriving at this junction would be one to celebrate a harvest, welcome in wisdom, drive home the possibility of eldership, he is not. He is not here for his appointment with candles and cake. We will gather and remember his lasting impact that will go long and deep, we will be grateful he was born and gifted us with his essential self. We will hold the space for cake and candles and my promise to tomorrow is to mark birth-days with respect from how they came to be where heaven and earth joined in a woman’s body and appeared in the shape of a child.

He was born in the perfect season for the life he lived, ordained by an Advent birth. Living long enough to embrace the next generation.

To be more child-like is one of the great invitations and birth-days are an annual reminder to enter the new year of our life with the same bewilderment and optimism of those first breaths.

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Embracing Tim and Archie on Sunday 15 October  (Tim 17.12.57 – 19.10.17)

Promises to tomorrow #35 #detach

 I am finding it hard to write, words don’t seem to cut it. This is a little reflection.

Detachment is a big ask after forty years and one at which I am a novice. There are rituals to support the practice. Drugs to administer and breaths to be taken to bring stillness and steadiness to the process of disappearing.

As David Whyte has written we are all apprentices to our disappearance and here I am doing my apprenticeship with a master craftsman, who is slowing dissolving from one plane to another. While he sleeps a few more cells transcend. Transfiguration at the speed of breath concentrated, distilled. The nails are translucent as very little blood is flowing. The skin starting to shed. As the climber reaches the summit there is less oxygen in the air, his arterial oxygen about the same as someone more than half way up Mt Everest, an ascent which doesn’t abate and one from which you can never return. Stars are on this last runway, twinkling to guide the way and beckoning gently to come forward. Fresh eyes, weary heart.

What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.

What you can live
wholeheartedly
will make plans enough
for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.

David Whyte

Each breath is a call and response – an inhale and exhale – contracting and expanding. Breathing in the oxygen and expelling the carbon dioxide – a waste product. Wasting is what happens on the inside when we don’t pay attention to breathing in and breathing out.

My promise to tomorrow is to try and detach more from my thoughts of wasted time and energy. The present is here, is now and is inspirational even though it forecasts expiration. There are mountains to climb, views to be seen, a transfiguration to witness.