I've been thinking about breathing lately. It first started when I was watching an interview with a then 94 year old woman who taught yoga. Tao Porchon-Lynch is now 98 years old, and I think she still teaches yoga. When she was asked, what is the secret to her vitality and health, she answered, "It's about the breath. Breathing takes away fear." As I thought about when I first learned some yoga poses, I remembered the instructors teaching how to deeply breathe through each pose, and I remembered how effective it was to then focus on the pose or the stretch at hand. I also remember the instructors saying, "Smile." I liked that part. I don't practice yoga as a meditation, but I do enjoy it as a way to stretch and exercise for my health. I find it relaxing too.
Later on I was reading from The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge where the protagonist, Mary, is reading from the diaries of her late Aunt Mary. The diary told of her mental "terror of impending disorder" and how tired it made Aunt Mary day after day. She wanted nothing more than to live in the country where there weren't so many social things pressing in on her fragile spirit. Eventually, she did move to the English countryside where she found peace and solace in breathing deeply the scents of flowers and fresh air and appreciating the beauty of her own garden. Nature spoke to her weary soul -- every bee and butterfly, bird and tree. Mary knew she would have illness and depression in the winter months through the years, but she anticipated spring and knew she could hold on until then. She still had times when "she lost her reason" but she felt she could breathe in the openness of the country. Do you ever feel that it is easier to breathe when you go on a country drive or when you take time to walk into nature and take it all in? I live in the country and yet I need time to walk, to really look, to appreciate nature, and to be thankful for all of it.
A friend from church recently had a mini-stroke. They didn't know why because she was in very good health. She went to Mayo Clinic for further examination and the cause was stress. She had been working very hard ranching beside her husband day after day, and her doctor said she needed to do less and relax more. I don't know if the doctor said it, but I can imagine he might have said, "You need to breathe. Deeply."
One verse from the Bible that I am very fond of is this: "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) Another translation says, "Cease striving and recognize that I am God." All day long we strive, don't we? We want to do more. We want to do our best. We want to perform up to the standards set before us. Even upon our beds, our minds are racing, planning, anticipating, hoping, fearing. Where is our rest? When do we get to be still, breathe, and know that we are in God's hands? Believe me, I know well that of which I speak.
I remember seeing one of my granddaughters hurt and upset. She was crying and breathing so hard that it made her situation worse. The more she cried, the more desperate she felt, the faster she breathed, until her mother said, "Just breathe with me -- slow breaths, in your nose, out your mouth. Just breathe." And together they slowed everything down. The crying subsided, the fear abated, the breathing calmed, and the hurt was tended to.
Why is it that we find it so hard to slow down, to experience the little things, to focus on the here and now, to be in the moment, to just breathe? To just be.
As I took my walk this afternoon I thought about the animals I was seeing around me: the cows chasing their calves, the sheep grazing in the hay field, the geese floating in the reservoir, the pair of antelope running at breakneck speed. Were they worried? Were they trying hard to be themselves? Does an antelope worry that his speed is not fast enough? Does the cow get upset that her baby is bucking and playing too much? Does the goose have concerns about his ability to float as well as the duck? No. They are all content to be exactly what God made them to be. They can breathe, they can be still and know.
And then do you know what I did? I stopped walking so fast. I purposely slowed my pace. I made an effort to breath deeply, still walking, but breathing with intention. It's a different feeling. It's both exhilarating and relaxing.
What do you think of the breath? Of breathing deeply? Of taking time to relax and to just be? Thank you for taking time to read my scattered thoughts. You are sweet to come this far with me. Now let's breathe together. And smile!