Kind promise: I will release and receive. (Breathe)
I recently listened to Andrew Weil speak about breath. Our aim, he said, should be to make our breaths deeper, slower, quieter and more regular. He suggested we practice whenever it occurs to us – in the middle of a shopping trip or sitting on the couch watching television. I’m curious to see how that deeper-slower-quieter-more regular might work to invite me into my life.
Deeper is one of my favorite words.
Ten years ago, I was distressed at the thought that, because of increasing physical disabilities, my life would get smaller. My energy level and the amount of physical care I need make travel across town a challenge, let alone travel to exotic places. The idea of speaking and teaching appeals to me, but the logistics are beyond me. My life will not get wider.
It can, on the other hand, grow deeper. I have always been a meaning-seeking creature and even a small life (perhaps especially a small life) can have deep meaning. I think of the medieval anchoress, alone in a small room praying and meditating. My life can be as deep as my imagination and imagination has no limits.
Slower is a countercultural idea.
For years, we human beings have been moving faster. If we move faster, we can get more done. If we accomplish more, our lives will be enriched, right? Perhaps not. Adrenaline only works in short bursts. It leaves us worn out and jittery. We are starting to want to slow down. The slow food movement is an example. Worn out by the mindless dependability of fast food, the movement seeks to preserve traditional regional cuisine and local food production.
Slowing down is a natural part of aging. (It will be interesting to see the baby boomers adjust to it.) I am slowing down. My wheelchair can move pretty fast, but my hands fumble and move slowly. My mind has to receive information in little bits. It’s easy for me to get frustrated with my slower pace. Instead, I can invite myself to appreciate the richer flavors created by a slower life.
Deeper and slower results in quieter.
I frequently watch Top Gear because I enjoy their humor and I like to spend time with my husband. I know nothing about cars, but I can tell those boys enjoy the vroom- vroom of fast engines. When I was 20, I spent a month in rural Mexico. For a week I helped a family “andar sembrano.” The father guided two donkeys as they pulled a plow across the field. The children and I followed behind, dropping seed into the resulting furrows. Back home in Wisconsin, I watched huge, loud tractors (sometimes air-conditioned) perform the same job.
My life is quiet, both in terms of lack of noise and lack of excitement. It’s a fine thing.
When it comes to “more regular,” I start to squirm a bit.
Most of our daily lives are quite regular. We are surrounded by shallow-fast-noisy, but also by routine. Me too, and I don’t like it.
When one’s life is a team project, a regular schedule is a side effect. With four caregivers taking turns to make sure I am fed, washed and clothed, the “care plan” is all-powerful. While each person does things slightly differently, the same tasks are done in the same order each day. The same is true of most people, of course.
It’s the illusion of spontaneity that I miss: the idea that, on a whim, I could jump in the car and take off for parts unknown – or at least run to the drug store to pick up Band-Aids. Clearly this is an area ripe for transformation.
Perhaps practicing deeper, slower, quieter, more regular breathing will help me appreciate deeper, slower, quieter, more regular living.