Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Slow Down. Relax. Breathe.

Larry Wolf, Hello Birch Coffee (2021)
I was visiting my mother in her apartment last July. We would have breakfast and dinner together. I would usually go out during the day to run errands or to visit a museum. On a typical day, I would get up before her and take a walk to Birch Coffee on 88th Street, about 10 minutes away. I would talk with my husband Eric on the phone as I walked there and bring my Americano back to her apartment. We'd make breakfast and sit together to eat it. 

Are You Breathing?

On the second or third day, I was rushing through breakfast, though I don't remember why. She asked me "Are you breathing?" 

My mother was a trained therapist, a good diagnostician. She was a keen observer. Of course, she was right. 

I was not breathing. Or more accurately, breathing so shallowly it was almost nonexistent. And I was eating quickly. Both true. Both big deals. Both long-standing behaviors. Important to address. Air. Food. Essential for life.

My usual response when under any kind of pressure, any kind of deadline, juggling toast and cooking eggs, cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen, any time when results matter, is to shift into shallow breathing. To not make a sound. To not ruffle the waters. To become invisible. 

What might be just a passing moment of tension, a need for extra attention, gets held. I hold my breath, not just for that one instant, but for minutes, hours, afterwards. Locked in. A stranglehold. I exaggerate. Barely.

We laughed. I know better. I have accumulated many months, probably years, at meditation programs. I teach meditation. The first instruction - breathe. Just breathe. Not to still the mind. Not to develop awareness, except of breathing. Connect with this simple essential aspect of being alive. This breath. Now.

So here I was, at 70, getting a lesson in the importance of breathing, from my mother. One breath and the next. Stop. Sip the coffee. One sip. Breathe. Unwind the tension. Breathe. 

Feel it in the belly. My belly. Relax. Breathe. Relax. Breathe. Feel. Relax. Feel. Relax.

Have a spoon of cereal. One spoon. Not too full. Put the spoon down. Chew the cereal. Breathe. Sip some water. Breathe. Pick up the spoon. Have a next small bit of cereal. Or fruit. Or just appreciate the moment. Continue the conversation. Breathe.

Larry Wolf, Breathe Breathe Breathe

I filled my journal that day with that one word, breathe, repeated over and over again. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. ... to be continued.

Ah. Ah. Ah. Let the mind settle. Stop stirring the pot. Just let it all rest. For one breath. This one breath. 

Pause gently before the next one. Feel it in my belly. Feel it in my chest. Be still. Breathe. Move. Breathe. 

Joking. Not Joking.

For the rest of that week, it became our joke. A very serious one. I can't live without breathing. None of us can.

"Are you breathing?"

"Are you pausing between bites? Put down the folk, the spoon. Breathe. What's the rush?"

What a wonderful week we had together. We went to museums and art galleries. We had meals out and meals in. We made art together. We told stories.

We breathed. We shared living. A simple miracle.

1 comment:

  1. what a moment captured.
    thank you for sharing this connection, this peek into your relationship.
    its beautiful