smoothing the rough patch

The going gets tough. The occasional rough patch is a natural side effect of living.

I’m not going to write about the content of this particular rough patch I’m in. Not yet.close trees

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.

Sometimes, in thick of it, it is enough to just regain that space.rough patch moss

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.

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones we have to choose.rough patch moon


IMGP0566Just as it was getting light this morning, Ira got suited up, grabbed his gun, and left to go squirrel hunting. There’s only a few more days of squirrel season left, but I think the child has shot 56 squirrels so far. Admittedly, I won’t be sad when the season ends as we have eaten so. many. squirrels. They taste fabulous, don’t get me wrong. And I am proud of him for always cleaning them with care and relish seeing how proud he is when we sit down to a meal that he harvested and often prepared all by himself. But I have strange moments of wondering when the natural balance in the squirrel population could be upset… or when hungry squirrel-eating hawks decide to pay a visit to our chicken paddock when they find tree-dwelling rodents are in short supply. Hmmmm.IMGP0594It was 12 degrees this morning. The cold weather doesn’t seem to bother Ira much, he refuses long underwear (well, any underwear for that matter) but he has actually taken to wearing socks with his rubber boots. If you know Ira, that is quite a revelation. When he returned from his hunt and set in giving Papa his report (again, if you know Ira, you also know that he always always has something to say.) he said it felt like a summer morning. Summer. He has a particular keenness for birds and pays attention to what they have to say. Apparently, this morning the birds’ chatter, and gobblers calling in the distance, alerted his brain to the fact that change is in the air. The inevitable change that happens when winter gives way to spring. And spring to summer, for that matter. And it is inevitable, too. The change. There is no stopping it. Even though there is still snow on the ground. Even though more snow could be falling this evening. Spring’s return is inevitable. And I’ll be glad for it.IMGP0504