The going gets tough. The occasional rough patch is a natural side effect of living.
What’s more relevant, in my opinion, is how to survive a rough patch.
This week, and many times before, the answer has been to simply BREATHE.
We breathe all the time. From the time we are born, our lung’s first expansion, the action of breathing does not cease until the end of our lives.
Breath is a gift corresponding directly to the gift that is our life.
But breathing is a gift we can choose, too.
I notice, when I’m in the midst of a rough patch, my breath becomes rough too. At best, I’m breathing on auto-pilot. It’s a shallow, but functional breath.
If I turn my attention from the tumult of my thoughts and feelings toward the passage of my breath, everything begins to shift.
The shift is a welcome respite to my previous state. My body settles. If I was anxious, I feel a little more calm. If I was tired or depressed, my spirits begin to lift. There is room for more life. There is space for greater curiosity.
But when there is a little time, its good to really practice – to apply that curiosity to the act of breathing itself.
It goes something like this…
What moves in my body when I breathe? Is there tension in that movement? Can I relax? If I relax, then what?
What if I fold my body forward when I exhale? Where do I feel that? Does it feel good?
What was different about using my breathe that way? My body?
Can I do it again and make my breathe flow slower? 6 seconds long, maybe? Eight seconds? Ten?
What if I twist instead of fold? What if I bend backward instead of forward?
When I am finished with the exploration of movement, the breath is still there, like a quiet river flowing through me.
My body, my mind, my heart are changed. Sitting still, in those moments at the end of practice, the voices of my family at work and play around me are harmonious in my ear, more musical than before. The glow of the morning sun on the throat of the nuthatch at the bird feeder is at least as important as the outcome of the next election, and the content of my worried mind.
Practicing breathing (this is yoga) in this way doesn’t eliminate my problems, but it softens the hard edges and smooths the inevitable ride through the rough patch.