Image credit: Breathe by Michelle at aCoCC on Etsy
Several years ago, I was nearing the end of my rope. I had been knee-deep in a job that wasn’t my dream and lifting my feet up merely pulled them out of the boots and back down into the surrounding muck. There was other gunk. I got sick. I didn’t know how to get better. My version of tying a knot and hanging on was to register for a five-day Vipassana meditation retreat.
There, I learned about impermanence.
It seemed like a really good idea at the time: drive two hours to the airport. Wait. Fly two hours. Wait. Fly half an hour on an eight-seater plane. Take a cab to a strip mall. Ask the local tourist booth people if I could leave my bags for a few hours. Leave bags and wander. Return and wait in the grocery store parking lot for a unmarked van. “You’ll know it when you see it,” had claimed the booking agent, earlier, on the phone. Ride in a van with seven strangers to the first ferry. Enjoy the first sail. Ride in a van with seven coming-to-be-not-strangers across an island to the second ferry. Enjoy the second sail, complete with local tales of draft-dodgers and wild things. Land. Drive around the second island delivering mail. Arrive at destination. Gasp a breath. Find room in dorm. More strangers.
Already, all was impermanent. How could it be anything but?
Here, I spent five days “watching my breath with awareness.” In silence. For, in the end, what else is there? I learned to breathe. Or, rather, to pay attention.
On the topic, Rumi wisely wrote, “There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then, there’s another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.”
Yes, a breath of love. I invite you, in this time of get-things-done-ness, of last-minute-ness; of big orders, demanding clients, another trip to the post office, kids’ parties, and bake trades . . . to, right now, focus on your breath. Don’t try to alter it, or judge it, or compare it: simply try to notice. Notice that it’s still there, through it all; though it is completely impermanent. It holds you, keeps you nourished, and grounds you.
Find your infinity for this tiny moment.
And then return to your commitments, a little closer to who you really are. A little closer to rested-you, out of the muck and breathing freely beyond it.