Just Breathe

The First Step in Peace? Breathe.

You feel the tense ache in your shoulders, that ache in your chest that tells you anxiety has crept into your day.  Maybe your muscles are tight, your hands clenched.  For just a moment stop and notice…are you holding your breath?

It’s not uncommon for people in counseling to work first with deep breathing techniques for a reason.  If you’d like to try a centering exercise that I use, find a good place to calm and relax just for a moment.  A park bench, your desk, even the couch in your office will all do fine.  Closing your eyes, take a moment to simply be present in the space.  Hear the sounds around you without assigning any meaning to them, then dismiss them from your focus.  They are there, you are aware, and that is enough.  Take a single deep cleansing breath, hold it and the release.  As you breathe in think “Breath, into the lungs. Life.”  As you slowly exhale, “breath, from the body, cleaning, pure.”  Just focus on breathing in and out, slowly, repeating the mantra of in, life; out, purity.  Allow your thoughts to become still, focusing only on the feel of your lungs, your torso taking in air, expelling it.  Feel your fingertips, the surface of your scalp; become aware of your body.  After a few minutes, hold a long deep breath, let it out slowly and open your eyes.  Your tension will have dissipated, just by giving yourself a break from the fight or flight response that stress engages in our bodies.

Breathing isn’t something to take for granted.  Today is one of those on the couch days for me, and my own breathing is hard to do.  I did get out and around for an hour to help my beloved Brian clean the summer porch, which is outside my lovely window.  The squirrel feeder is back on the tree in it’s new place, and already the little smart alec squirrel has been in a fight with a raven over a pile of nuts.  It’s an interesting back yard.  I lay in the grass for a while in the sun, smelling the fresh air and listening to the birds.  As the afternoon clouds rolled in we came back to the house and camped in the office awhile.  I am not ready to let go of the view from my window just yet today.  I can see my mother’s Iris’ that she planted, purple red and white stalks of flower just beyond the deck of the summer porch.  There is a pile of aged brick to rearrange for a fire pit on one side; the wrought iron furniture has been collected and cleaned on the other.  In all, it’s about 30 x 15 feet of cement deck covered by an ancient gazebo and surrounded by trees at least fifty feet tall…and bushes that were two feet are now ten.  A decade later, and they’re all big boy,  a play land for our bossy, fat squirrel. (At present, he’s chasing another squirrel in circles outside my window up and down the tree trunk.  He takes the feeder very seriously.)  I can not wait to finish the porch with summer lights and Tiki torches.  Its’ going to be an amazing summer on that porch, I can feel it.  The backyard has been trimmed into submission, and looks less like a jungle and more like an acre of garden.

What is it that brings you to a place of hope?

Can you feel it swell inside of you, dancing like the lightest melody through your cells?

Hope: the legs giving faith the ability to move.

Hope for me comes in the form of love.  I love the impressions, watching life as it unfolds around me in the simplest ways.   I found hope in watching T this morning, her blonde hair streaming in the wind. She played in the sunlight, her long legs like a colt kicking her ball and being seven for all she is worth.  It’s a great soccer/tag/kickball yard.

Hope can literally be in the air.  For the thousandth time in my adult life, the house itself is a unique mix of bath salts oils and banana bread from two different sides of the place.  My children love the smells of the kitchen, the ever present fresh loaf of bread that Mom throws together as they arrive en masse.  It’s out of love that I do it ~ I get tired of banana bread after a while, but don’t rat me out.  I love the carrot cake that Taryn and I learned to make, but it’s the more rare occasion.  I love the hope in baking.  I’m going to make a wedding cake, a real, tiered wedding cake for the heck of it.  I just want to try.  Still today, the kitchen is covered in banana bread for this mornings farmer’s market; I was not well enough to go.  It’s a good thing that the deep cooler does wonders with banana bread and ages it to perfection.  There will be nary a loaf left next week, trust me.  That stuff just flies out the door…it’s yummy.

I find hope in creating things that people enjoy. Thinking about opening up a bakery/Apothecary on main street. The bath salts are amazing.   I think that I am going to have a soak in them for a while this afternoon if life permits. I went to a friend’s flower shop yesterday and picked up all the discard flowers that she wasn’t going to use, drying them in the oven, and then mixing them into the bath salt blends.  I am taking her a jar to say thanks.  Hope and faith are everywhere if only you take time to cultivate meaningful time with other people.

Listen awhile.

Know their story.

Care about who they are.

Cleaning the yard gave me a chance to use the breathe technique as I raked, just being present in the space with grateful feelings. I have to admit that it’s done me pretty much in for the day.  Shower, nap and  quiet diner before bed again. I love this home, this life so much.  Despite all the changes that life has brought, the moments of pain, there is no place like home.  Brian is currently napping here on the couch next to me, having enjoyed a glass of milk to celebrate our sweeping of the porch and clipping of serious tree ans shrub growth around it.  A few loads of mulch and we’ll be in business.

There is always hope.

I know that today is the “end of the world” by the estimates of some mistaken pastors; I will go to bed tonight thankful that I lived this day with total love and commitment.  Present and part of the life that we love.  I think it’s a good Kopper Kettle night, along with my favorite blond girl who will want to sit and eat in the garden outside.  It’s a great idea, weather permitting.

It’s the details of life that bring me hope, the moments that you store up and treasure each and every day.

I send you thoughts of love, peace and the gift of deep self introspection.  Only when you understand yourself, who you are and where your pain lies, do you hope to strip away all that is unhealthy for you and love with complete openness.

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