~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

A Few Easy Breaths

September 30, 2020
I

When the world threatens to overwhelm, I lie down. 

I settle onto the ground and exhale.

I give up. I give in. And for a few sweet moments, I let go of absolutely everything I know. 

I befriend the earth. I let gravity overtake me. I invite my whole being to soften, to melt, as I hand my life over to earth's faithful embrace. 

I relinquish my tight hold on life and let everything beyond me spin off in its own uncontrollable way. I remind myself that I can let go of everything now and still there will be no place to fall.

I nestle into the quiet lullaby of the breath. Slowly and surely this beautiful ebb and flow erodes the stickiness and stress within. Breath by breath and moment by moment, the angst slips away and the mind begins to clear. I sense the quiet return of my sweeter, truer self.

I stay a little longer. I unravel a little more. I rest into the recovered peace of this moment, this tender space, this life-saving balm of the here and now, of heavy and light, of earth and sky. And I stay - breathing and surrendering and softening every bit of my being - for as long as it takes to reclaim my breath, my balance and my life.

II

I call this life-saving practice A Few Easy Breaths, or sometimes Befriending the Earth. Some days I call it Defeated Mother Pose, and in my most desperate moments, I call it Just Giving Up. I share it with you on the off chance that you, too, might need a refuge from time to time, a soft spot to land when the waters of life grow turbulent and scary. I share this practice so that you, too, may find your way back home when you feel lost and overwhelmed.

Magic happens when after so much striving and angst, we give up and let everything be for just a little while. A soul-quenching sweetness returns when we turn away from the world's endless rush, from the relentless chatter, from the nonstop train of life. 

In order to live fully in the world, it seems, it is necessary to turn away every once in a while. To turn inward. To reclaim one's inner balance. To remember what holds us close. To let everything inessential fall away until nothing is left but stillness and presence and who we really are in the deepest folds of the wide-open world.

Even adults, it seems, need a time out from time to time.

III

Here's my gentle suggestion: The next time you feel desperate or lost, with your circuits overloaded and your body gasping for air, get as close as possible to the ground. Sit down, lie down, fall down, whatever you can manage.

I'm a big fan of collapsing onto the earth, but you could also climb into bed or nestle into your favorite comfy chair. In summer, a blanket out on the lawn feels perfect. In winter, tucked in tight in the coziest spot in the house might feel just right.

If you have the energy, grab a pillow or blanket on your way down to create a soft nest for yourself. The aim is to let your body rest completely, to feel held and to let go.

Once settled, invite your whole being to soften, to melt, to relinquish its tight grip on life. Release the shoulders, unclench the belly and notice everything that feels tight inside of you. Hand all that tension over to the earth.

Remind yourself that this troubling moment is not a life-threatening emergency. Say those words out loud if you need. (Sometimes I actually say, "Dear brain, this is not an emergency. No need to be on high alert. I am safe in this moment. I can soften and relax now into the ground beneath.")

Settle into the soothing melody of the breath, with its rise and fall, its ebb and flow. Let each inhalation soften you. Let each exhalation feel like a deep act of surrender. You’ll know you’re heading in the right direction when a soul-satisfying sigh of relief pours out of you. You’ll feel like a lost and fussy baby who has been placed in her mother’s arms and can finally soften and breathe once again. Everyone sighs in relief.
 
About now might be a good time to remind yourself that you have always managed before, that you have never actually fallen off the earth entirely. Now would be a good time to remember that all lives come with 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, and that the rockiness of this moment will eventually flow into joy once again.

Remind yourself, too, that you have all the resources you need to manage this moment, this life. In this one moment - the only place to truly be alive - you are breathing and tender-hearted and whole.

Stay here until you feel like yourself again. This may take several moments. (And wouldn't it be beautiful if you even fell asleep here?) On a good day, you may feel free again after just a few easy breaths.

IV

Here's the mystery and the beauty of this practice: When you get close to the earth, when you genuinely hand your life over to her in a soft and faithful way, the earth generously gives back.

Like a good friend, the earth holds you close even as the turbulence of life roils on. You give up. You let go. You are held. And then when you are ready, the earth gently nudges you back to the wider world. In some strange and quiet alchemy, despair gives way to shades of possibility. Strength slips back into your bones. Your steady heart revives.

By letting go of all you think you know and all you think you should be, you are reclaimed, you are found. In growing heavy you make room for the light to enter once again. In emptying you are filled, and in dissolving you are made whole. 
 
You breathe again without fear, and you remember the sweet ways this life may be song. You remember the beauty and the loveliness of just being here, alive, awake and willing to take in the light. You rest here a little while, feeling utterly grounded and deep, and also as light and spacious as the air all around. 

If the practice has worked its magic, you will feel restored. You will feel returned to your truest self, clear-eyed and at ease. Your faithfulness will return in living color, as you remember that everything is going to be okay, that you can manage this mysterious adventure called life. 
 
 In handing yourself over to the earth you have also been gifted the sky.

V

Why not start right now? Why not slip down to the ground for just a few moments of ease and peace? Even now, can’t you feel the earth pulling you toward her, nudging you to relinquish the weight of your life for just a little while?

Settle close to the earth. Take a deep breath in, and then let a long and beautiful sigh of relief pour out of you. Breathe in again. And with each exhale, nestle a little more fully into the wide-open arms of the ground beneath.

Stay awhile if you like. Let the rest of the world spin off in its own hurried orbit. Enjoy the view from down low. Smile at the sky so very high above. Enjoy a few easy breaths, befriending the vast and patient earth, letting everything go and everything be.

Perhaps in these few quiet moments you will find yourself, your life, your possibility and truth. You might even feel shards of dappled joy somewhere deep inside. And when you are ready, you will rise up and return to the wider world, still carrying earth's generous and faithful presence deep within your bones.

๑