Counting Breaths

Counting Breaths
That moment had finally come. My mother was at the 11th hour as her long journey with Alzheimers took a turn for the worse. Hospice was called in and they prepared my mother for her journey home. They prepared us too for what was to come. In tears, I asked, ”how long, how long does she have?’’ The caregiver from hospice softly replied, ”at this point, we no longer measure TIME in weeks, days or even hours, we measure TIME in breaths.” I knew that my mother’s time on this planet had come to an end and finally, she could rest in peace.
As I went to sleep that night, holding my mother close to my heart, I reflected on the words of the caregiver, ”we measure TIME in breaths.” If we honestly looked at our lives and the ways in which we live, we would see that our lives are so often measured by the big events that fill our time on this earth- from birth to our first steps, to our first day of school, to graduation, to securing our dream job, to marriage, to the birth of our children, to their first steps, etc. Our chronological timeline is made up of one headliner followed by another until our last breath.
What about all those in-between moments, the forgotten moments that are so equally important because they too are filled with life? Our in-between moments are the stepping stones that guide us to our headliners and give us the encouragement and respite to move forwards. If we could measure our lifetime by each breath or each step we took we would become steeped in what we call conscious living, living moment to moment. Within, there is time for time to reveal itself and for us to slow way down and experience the epic ness of now. Do we need to wait for death to knock at our door or the door of a loved one before we can start measuring our time in breaths? Do we need a pandemic to slow us to a snail pace before we fully understand and accept the fragility and finiteness of life?
Time for Time
TIME being of essence. We know this but quickly forget. We try to bend time, buy time and in doing so we waste time. So much of our time is unwisely invested in frenzy, in doing a lot of Notting mess, in worry and in fear, holding on to the past and planning the unknown future. Time wasted trying to get ahead of what and of who? We don’t know because we haven’t stopped and taken the time to ask ourselves these questions. Instead, we fast forward to the next big goal oriented headliner whilst holding our breath.
The great sages believed that our days are numbered by the number of our breaths. This equates to slow conscious breathing that allows us to optimise our vital energy, called prana. When we slow our breath down our mental activity slows down as well creating space between your thoughts, especially the ones that are constantly looping. This space gives way to awareness and awareness gives way to presence in the now. Being in the now we hear our breath, witness the rise and fall of our belly, experience the simple art of breathing as an all-encompassing moment connecting us to what is present and what is essential.
In this time of great uncertainly where time has miraculously been gifted once again, we can choose to use it wisely. For some, having extra time can create anxiety and an uncomfortable feeling of void or emptiness; even overwhelm if you were once running after time. These feelings may give way to the urgent desire to clutter the space and fill our time with random activities and reactive thoughts.
Be kind to yourself. This is a new out-of-your-comfort-zone reality. Notice with kindness, without judgement, any need to fill your time, fill your space within and without. Ask with gentleness and compassion, ”what are you naturally or habitually inclined to use to occupy your time and fill your space?” May it be TV, food, alcohol social media, reading, sleeping, working out or judgmental thoughts, invite their full expression without criticism, offer them your full attention and greet them with openness and curiosity. This instrumental insight can be your path to awareness and conscious transformation. From seeing the truth, you thereafter have the choice to shift, even just small incremental steps towards freedom. Can you bear witness to the sensation of endless time even if for just a few breaths before the urge to fill it? Let’s try.

Moving towards a shift.
Take a seat. Make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes, allowing the upper lids to gently rest on the lower lids. Soften your jaw. Allow the legs and the hips to relax towards the earth, creating a sense of stability and presence. Draw your awareness to the base of your spine and from this point follow with your minds eye along the length of your spine. Notice the space that is already present, space between each vertebra.
Now, witness the space between the hips and the base ribs, now between each rib. Feel what that feels like. Feel the space between the shoulders, between the collar bones and from your shoulders to your ears. Notice the space between your temples, the space between your lips. Feel that space. Now, experience the spaciousness from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. Space… space… space…Allow yourself to be bathed in this space, your space.

Now, draw your awareness to the space between your upper lip and your nostrils. Witness your natural breath as it moves in and out, effortlessly, cool breath moving in, warm breath moving out. The space between your inhale and your exhale, just notice spaciousness. Continue to witness the natural flow of your breath as it caresses the inside of your nostrils and breathes you. Feel the breath. Feel the space.

When you are ready, move your awareness to the space between your thoughts, thoughts come and thoughts go and there is space between each. Maybe a nano second but there is space. Nothing to force, nothing to do, just continue to breath and witness, coming back to breath then to thought and then back to breath. Breath extends, the space between each breath too. Time slowly unfolds. Practice regularly, capturing each breath, capturing each moment so that time will be on your side.

#countingbreaths #o2yogabreathelife #covid19 #yogaforlife #time#transformation #yogapath #surrender #meditation

Counting My Blessings Penny After Penny ~The Six Stages of Gratitude

When I was a little girl, my brother received a plastic toy as a gift, while I received a penny.

I felt hurt and disappointed, and then guilty for feeling this way. My favorite babysitter took me aside and shared a life lesson that is still with me today.

She first tried to convince me that my penny wasn’t just any old penny, but a new shiny one. I looked down at the palm of my hand, but all I could see was a penny.

She asked me to close my eyes as she took my tiny six-year-old hand, penny and all, and placed it over my heart. The warmth of her palm completely covered my hand, and she reminded me of the love and fondness that we mutually shared. Through the wall of my hurt, of not feeling special enough, not loved enough, tears formed and my heart softened just enough to let her in—to receive her gift.

She gently whispered that the true worth of any gift is always in the eye of the beholder. Nothing has more value than we choose to give it.

A penny could be worth a million dollars, and a million-dollar toy worth no more than a penny. It all depends on how we choose to perceive it. The intention behind every gift we receive is worth gold and the gold in our intention is behind every gift we offer. Read more

Free Falling: The Limbo of Not Knowing

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/free-falling-the-limbo-of-not-knowing/

 

The last tiny bit of perceivable stable ground fades into the horizon as I loosen my grip.

Suddenly my line of tether disappears. Night falls quickly. The wind dances with the waves as they crash relentlessly against the flimsy edges of my only sense of security.

I am carried farther and farther out into uncharted waters…

I look back, in hopes of securing my need for something tangible—something to grasp on to. There is no life jacket aboard. I am entirely alone. I have severed all ties with Point A, the past 28 years of my married life, to embark on an expedition toward Point B, an unfamiliar destination.

I feel my heart breathing a mixture of fear and loss. Tears of black mascara run down my cheeks. My mind slips into the foreground and takes control. I stoically wipe my tears away. There must be a map hidden somewhere on this tiny vessel!

My heart sinks in hopelessness. In all the busyness of planning my departure, I carelessly forgot that one important item—the map that would offer me a ‘’what’s next?’’ plan and guide me safely to another shore.

Without a map or game-plan at hand, I find myself here—with myself, right here, right now—with nowhere to go, just thrown about in the waters of raw uncomfortableness. It is raw because there is no knowing of what, where, when or how. 

I am dead center in no man’s land, and it is a seriously vulnerable place to be.

Read more

Trailblazing. You Can’t Get Lost If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going In The First Place.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/trailblazing-we-cant-get-lost-if-we-dont-know-where-were-going-in-the-first-place/

I was just 17 ½ and freshly out of high school. I was impressionable especially when encountering trailblazers, the weird ones the ones that thought and dressed out of the box. In my junior high school creative writing class, I met a girl, not just any girl but one that had a huge personality for her tiny 4’10” frame. She spoke four languages, was born in Panama and had traveled extensively. She was smart and curious and a free spirit. Her character was forged in cement, and she was sure of what she knew, sure of what she wanted and she had no qualms going after it. I wanted to have a life like hers, different from the norm. I drank her words like the finest of wines and aspired to be like her, courageous, worldly and totally autonomous.

One day during lunch break, she casually mentioned that she was heading to Europe for the summer holidays. I drilled her on how, where, with whom, etc. ”Alone.” was her only reply to my questions that fired at her like a machine gun. That was all I needed to hear. I went home that night and thought about it. Why not me? What is stopping me from doing the same thing? I had a small savings stashed under my mattress and could sell my only two valuable possessions, my racing bike and my Rossignols.

Between creative writing class and biology, I stopped by the local travel agent and secured an open-ended ticket to London. Why London? No other reason other than it seemed like a good place to begin. And so it was. With my backpack on my shoulder, my passport and $1000 in my pocket, I boarded the plane to London. I never gave it much thought how my adventure would transpire or what I would do once I arrived there. At the time, it didn’t seem to matter.

Despite the 17 hours in the air, the flight seemed short. I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited and spent hours walking up and down the aisles making new friends. I befriended an Englishman and learned that the Sterling Pound was the currency of the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom was the same as England. I think that he was a bit concerned about my naivety, so he took me under his wing and drove me to a decent neighborhood to find a cheap guesthouse which became my home for months.

I quickly learned the importance of looking right before crossing the street, keeping my eyes lowered while riding the tube and most helpful of all, understanding the enigmatic word ”the loo”. Day one, I enthusiastically I spanned the city far beyond its borders. At least, that’s what it felt like.

Dusk came quickly. I stopped in my tracks and looked around. At that moment, reality kicked in. I was alone, entirely alone in this faraway foreign country. I knew no one; no one knew me. Nothing looked familiar. I was lost. How did I let this happen? Fear embraced me and stole my senses. I looked up at the immensity of the sky and mapped the brilliance of the stars above. I heard a whisper from inside, ”It is O.K. You aren’t lost because you never knew where you were going in the first place. So allow yourself to wander, weave in and out of the cobblestone streets, get lost again and again and discover the novelty of the present moment.” This advice is some of the best that I have ever received.

Having a plan, following a map, gives direction and provides us with a stable framework that paves our path. If the moment is ripe, we can try out our sense of faith, spread our wings and strengthen our muscle of surrendering to what presents itself without attachment to the outcome. There is something inexcusably exciting about adventuring into newness and not knowing what you will find, or what will find you. It can be scary, and it can be exhilaratingly awesome.

One serendipitous moment after another became my reality for 14 months. I learned a lot about other cultures, people and above all myself. This expedition was one of personal growth and, like Pema Chödrön wisely points out, embarking on a journey, whether it be to Europe or some other faraway destination or one of personal transformation, is always thrilling until that precise moment when we realize that we are utterly alone.

This moment is when we lean in a bit more and remember, whether you are a pathfinder on the road of growth or trailblazing through South East Asia, you are never alone, and, you can’t get lost if you don’t know where you are in the first place. So my advice- if you have the time and a sense of adventure, get lost and enjoy the art of trailblazing without a map. You might just end up finding yourself.