When the world goes sideways and turns us upside down, it’s important to remember to breathe so that we can follow our air bubbles to the surface learn which way is up…which way can help us return to a place with more oxygen.
I’m not just talking about scuba diving; I’m also talking about anchoring. Wait. What? Are we anchoring or coming up for breath? The answer is: Both. When it comes to the practices that will help us stay connected to which way is up in an upside-down world, we are both breathing (coming up for breath) and anchoring. It’s in these circumstances in which we feel out-of-control that we are most in need of paying attention to the parts of our life that we can control, like our breath, and to use this sense of control to cultivate that stability that will help us feel anchored and upright.
Paying attention to how our bodies move through space and time helps us better understand that changes that we need to make in order to breath more easily. Similarly, paying attention to our breath can help us understand what we need to do in order to help our bodies move with more ease through difficult circumstances. Our breath, emotions and bodies are our best allies for understanding which way is up and how to get back to the surface.
Take, for instance, the Monday before last; it was an upside-down morning for me. I returned home to an empty, quiet house after dropping my son off at his father’s house. I was miserable, and all I wanted was a hug, but we aren’t living in a world where it’s easy to get hugs. The one person that I am giving and receiving hugs from right now was gone, as was all of his energy and spirit. It felt like a super crap start to the week. Transition days are hard for me. They always have been; but this one felt particularly difficult.
Noticing my emotional and physiological response, I asked myself: What practices am I in control of that could shift this experience toward a more positive one? I may not have any control over this pandemic or over other people’s behaviors that may make this circumstance more of a problem then it needs to be; but I can only take responsibility for my own, precious life.
Here is what I came up with. I recognized that there was no space for my sadness on a Monday morning when faced with work Zooms and to-dos; so I asked my ex if he would be willing to change our transition to Sunday evenings, which would give me some time and space on Sunday evening to experience all the feelings that come up for me during these transitions. It would work both ways. On the flip side, my son and I could have some connection time at night and start our at-home school/work week from a more connected place. Thankfully, my ex and I have a relatively supportive co-parenting relationship (with a heck-ton of intra and inter-personal work to make this possible), and he agreed to this scheduling shift.
Flash forward to the next Sunday night transition night, after dropping my son off at his Dad’s house. Again, I anticipated that I was going to be miserable coming home to an empty house. What I wanted to do was wallow and drink, but alcohol is a depressant that aggravates my ability to skillfully navigate challenging times; so the more stressful my life is the more I opt for a different solution to winding down so that I can show up for my life in the way that it’s needing me to show up. It’s a stressful time, and I want to be able to manage it to the best of my ability, so I chose instead to setup a FaceTime call with a friend and to prepare my favorite non-alcoholic, celebratory beverage to have during our call. On my way home from dropping my son off, I received the news that my friend had to bail because of family needs. Serious disappointment. I spend a couple minutes playing a self-pity tape before reaching out to another friend, who was thankfully available. I woke-up refreshed Monday morning, was able to do my morning routine and then saddled up to my computer monitor, which I had also prepped for the circumstance by placing beside it a $2 bundle of daffodils that I picked up during my weekly grocery shop.
Each of us will have different circumstances, different challenges and different resources on hand. We can’t constrain ourselves to need any one thing in order to overcome our adversity; we need to focus on the resources at hand and to use them wisely. As Sensei Melanie Murphy would say: “Use what you have, protect what’s in danger, put it where it counts.”
Anyone who has ever seen a Jackie Chan movie knows exactly what this looks like. None of Jackie Chan’s characters ever complained about not having nun chucks to open a can of whoop ass on an opponent. Nope. He used the resources of his environment and put those resources where they counted in order to overcome the challenge at hand.
It’s a good time to channel our inner Jackie Chan.
If you don’t yet have someone encouraging you to consider the resources on hand and how to apply them toward uplifting the joy in your life in whatever small ways possible, then please consider this post as giving you permission to do so. Pay attention to your breath and your body and the triggers that make them both constrict and see if there are some small ways of shifting the circumstance to allow for more expansion, more ease of being, more breath. Take good care of yourself right now.
Copyright (2020) by Rachael D. Mueller according Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International