“You need very little effort to stay afloat – simply fill your lungs with air. Easy, really.” The Happy Buddha
I stood by the water with my eyes closed, listening to the sucking and surging of the waves moving in and out. I felt the surprising strength of the sun warm on my face and felt my breathing in and out, syncopated slightly with the ebb and flow. After dropping my children at school this morning, I stopped for five minutes by the sea. It was five minutes in all honesty that I felt I didn’t have but knowing how good being outdoors is for me, especially when I’m busy, I did it anyway. I didn’t get my feet wet, whilst standing there with my eyes closed, though I wondered if I might. A brief yet exquisite moment that has equipped me for the rest of the day. As I moved back up the beach towards the car with my senses open, I picked up a smell, it was coming from the broken road (please see last week’s blog post to make sense of this) - I love the smell of tarmac in the morning!
This past week I have been thinking about breathing. Obviously, the beauty of breathing is that we don’t need to think about it as our incredible bodies are programmed to do it naturally. I spent two days this week renewing my outdoor first aid qualification and so much of the course was spent on the topic of breathing, or in truth not breathing, and we practised listening and counting each other’s breaths – and breathing into the resuscitation model. In an average day we will breathe 23,000 times, in an average lifetime 670 million times (according to Google!). How many of these do we pay attention to? Whilst driving home from the training, I found myself thinking back to the day my eldest child was born. After a long and difficult labour, there was that moment when we all held our breaths in the delivery room waiting for her to take her first breath, thinking 'does she know how to do this?' Thankfully her body did. Then we stopped listening, apart from at night when I still check on my children before I go to bed and listen to their breathing. It is to my ears perhaps the most beautiful sound I can hear. The ordinary miracle of breathing.
For all of us, our breath can be our anchor to the present moment as it is a constant in our lives and is always happening at any given moment. The breath can be particularly supportive in more challenging times and there are those wise words to count to 10 before saying something you wished you hadn’t! When we focus on the breath we can just observe it flowing in and out, in and out, without trying to change it, or we might notice that we need to take some longer, slower breaths to better balance ourselves. By focussing on our breathing, we can take our attention away from our often ruminating thoughts of past or future.
Since the storms of the previous weeks, and the snow melting, spring is appearing everywhere around me. A longed for day took place this week and I picked and cooked the first wild garlic of the year. Winter has been particularly cold this year, which was signposted in autumn by the vast swathes of berries in the hedgerows, as the ‘old wives tale’ goes. With this tail end of winter being so bitter, I feel like I have been holding my breath waiting for spring, so it is all the more exciting to get out there and breathe it all in, even just for five minutes at a time. Leaves are appearing on the trees and plants are starting to bloom. The vast temperate forests and grasslands of the northern hemisphere are starting to go green, kickstarting their photosynthesis and producing the precious oxygen for us to breathe. I marvel at this natural cycle, this recycling of our carbon dioxide. We breathe in time with the trees and plants: oxygen in, carbon dioxide out, carbon dioxide in, oxygen out. There is a comforting rhythm to this. We breathe together.
“Relax into the flow and notice how your breathing becomes one with your movements, ebbing and flowing with the rhythm of the waves.” - Tessa Wardley
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