this breath

by humanmama on January 30, 2014

WOW it’s been quite a long and cold and snowy winter. And at my count, we’re not really halfway over, yet. (Sorry.) How are you surviving? Let me tell you what, even though the kids have been sick this month and our souls are slowly dying from being stuck inside in near-zero temperatures, I’ve been managing by keeping one simple thing in mind: This is temporary.

It’s a basic tenet of most religions, and also of being wise. Mindfulness–the thought that this is all fleeting and temporary, gets me through a lot of situations nowadays. Here’s a great definition of mindfulness, from Psychology Today:

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

You can imagine how road rage couldn’t exist in a mindful state: I am aware of my actions and the actions of those around me–I realize that I feel hurried (perhaps because of my own poor planning or running late), and I can hardly blame the person in front of me for turning quickly, since I realize that they too are in the midst of some situation I know nothing about. I like to say “I’m sure his wife is pregnant in the backseat” when someone cuts me off, attributing that person’s inattentiveness to a situation I obviously could know nothing about. It’s much easier and more satisfying than beeping my horn, flicking them off, getting sweaty, and being excited to get to the next light so I could roll down my window to yell swear words at that person. Really, it is!

And, to extend the metaphor, I’m trying to apply mindfulness to this winter, too. Saying to myself I’m sure the worst is almost over! is just like what I say when I’m doing a yoga pose that I can barely stand. I tell myself not “There’s only 25 minutes left of this practice,” nor do I say to myself “I hate this pose.” No, I simply tell myself, “this breath. I need to finish this. One. Breath.” And then? I get through the next breath. And then? The next breath. I try to practice doing each breath as well as I possibly can, and all of a sudden we’re saying “Namaste!” and clapping. It’s over, and it was much more bearable when I was mindful.

So for the next month or two don’t feel like this will never end–you know it will. Just take each part of your day in a mindful way. This breath, I say to myself when I have all 3 sick kids at the doctor’s office by myself past lunchtime with no snacks or toys. This breath, I say when I’m on the bathroom floor at 3am helping my 4-year-old puke into a bowl. That’s it, just one at a time. Well get through it, one breath at a time.

Even if those breaths are made up of sighs. It still counts!hawaii

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