I got ready for work in an empty house this morning. I drank my coffee and ate my breakfast while it was still hot. I showered and dressed without anyone calling my name. I ordered my moments, chose my music, made my lunch, looked out the window and watched the snow fall, sang harmony to some tunes, and left the house on time. I was so relaxed that the layer of ice on my vehicle didn’t phase me, I just started it and embraced the scraper. I’ve missed myself of late. Have you ever felt that deep longing for only having you in your immediate sphere? Alone. The idyllic impossibility of the life of a hermit seems the very pinnacle of existence when we feel disjointed. The practical reality of it would solve so many things, would it not?
I didn’t breathe last month. O, there was in and out. But, I didn’t breathe last month. It took four days of being off to find the place where my inhale and my exhale became my own again. Have you had that kind of a month? It was practically necessary, I enjoyed most of it, but I was missing. There is a weariness in that sort of perpetual doing that weighs on the soul. Existence, my friend, is not Life.
So, what then is the meaning of the breath? Why is “busy” so internally alienating? What causes the disconnect? The “I do” has a way of replacing the “I am” which is detrimental to the intrinsic oneness of the spiritual person. “I do, because I can,” replaces “I express, because I am.” The whole experience leaves one breathless. The wind gets knocked out of us in the process of forgetting that the sum total of our identity is not in the measurable quota of our output, but rather our state of being in the process.
I’ve been lost in the roles of life much in my journey. Daughter, friend, mother, wife, worshipper, caregiver, housekeeper, cook, gardener, pianist, employee, saleswoman, even my vocation of reflexologist has external expectations attached to it. All of these roles come with rules, written and unwritten, conduct codes, boundaries. I have to keep myself in check, so they are done properly, within the parameters of the relationship I have with the others in the sphere of their influence. I can say some things, but I cannot speak all the things I hear and see.
I think that’s why I get so lost when I am tangibly perpetually occupied with “the things” I do. The inner discourse that should be free to flow into the realm of creativity or meditation is, instead, told to “hush.” Rather than having my mind and emotions actively listening to Spirit, I am severed, caught in my head space. I arrange rather than feel my way through the day. It is not only disruptive in my inner being, but everyone I touch can feel the chill. Others become people to manage, rather than spirits interacting with mine. My discourse tends to push them away instead of bring them near. Tears are near the surface. Outbursts of emotion coming from others around me feel directed at me. There is an ongoing sense of being overwhelmed. If one looked in and watched, I am sure they would see little things that should not have toppled the tower of strength, obliterate it with a tiny breeze. To me it felt like a monsoon. But I wasn’t breathing…
Maturity, I think, is realizing this disconnection and changing both mindset and circumstances in favour of connection. We think there is no time. But time can exist in the space of any activity that is mundane or quiet. Connection can happen in any space where another being is in earshot. Depth of conversation is a choice. Making a friend is a choice. Feeling the vibe of a stranger and responding with compassion is a choice. Hugging your children with both arms, kissing your Lover, pausing to pet a dog or a cat. Tasting your food. These things all bring us into the present. Saying “I love you” requires breath control. Awareness. Noticing Colour, Smells, Texture. Feeling the air… is it dry, crisp, icy, warm, wet?
Possibly, we see the things we cannot grasp in the moment as disciplines, habits we need to form, spiritual practices. Games done entirely alone. It is true. It is easier alone. However, being with people is more pleasant when one is not wishing them away. Conflict doesn’t resolve, miscommunication isn’t solved, peace doesn’t suddenly arrive because one walks away from the tension. Tension tends to follow, if not in the mind, somewhere in the body. There is really only one avenue for resolution of discord… deliberately remain present until it is worked out. If the person won’t do it with you, it has to be done on your own. The internal conversation looks different, because you end up asking yourself questions about why you feel that way, or how that person gets under your skin. You may end up unearthing the source of a trigger, or a place of unrest with that introspection.
One thing is very true; if you have to escape the people in order to find any peace, you aren’t coping. They are not the reason you are disconnected internally. Goodness, I would have loved to blame my family. It wouldn’t have been me that ignored my breath. I could have validated every emotional outburst, even request for space, or instantaneous cooperation. “Busy” did not bring about the severance of soul expression and replace it with a “doing.” I did that because I believed I had to put myself on the shelf in order to meet the needs of others. And then I resented the others because they kept me from myself. My need for connection is greater than having everyone around me satisfied (they never were). Because I put myself on the shelf, I also put knowing them on the shelf. Practically caring for the physical needs of someone is not the same as cultivating relationships. We cannot be more connected to those around us than we are willing to be with ourselves.
So breathe. Be intentionally aware. Feel the water when you do the dishes, notice the smell of clean when you scrub a toilet, feel the rhythm when you vacuum. Deliberately listen for the pop and sizzle when you fry an egg. Smell the toast in the toaster. Look at your clients when you go to work. Listen to your kids tell you the story… not for the story, but for the connection. Put the phone down when your spouse opens their mouth - if you get distracted by them, let it be because you saw their eyes, or the curve of their lip when they smiled. Internal connection is not achieved by shutting out the world. Meditation can be a deliberate breath with closed eyes in the middle of a chaotic moment.
I didn’t breathe for a month. Not because my schedule was busy, but because the list in my mind had the heading “Things I have to do” above it. If I had allowed even a few of them to ground me, everything would have been part of the flow instead of a hindrance to it. If I had allowed the family parts of my day to include even a minute of the pleasure of knowing and being known, I wouldn’t have been so annoyed by the interruptions in my schedule that the needs of my humans caused. The Love and Beauty in Life would have had a chance to speak. But I saw things instead of life. And I forgot that breath is carried with me, it comes from within, and every exhale is a potential expression of endlessly connected motion and creativity, and every inhale a reminder that I am not an island. I am a part of the whole. I always have been. That is the meaning of breath… connection. Breathe in to engage myself in all that is, with deliberate action, and breathe out to exercise the intrinsic manner in which I contribute to all that is. Not alone, even in this solitary action. One is never One. That is the meaning of the breath.