Just this breath…
The lads were playing with elastic bands this morning, and at one point Joss managed to give himself a solid whack on the hand – his little skin marked straight away, all purple and blue, looked pretty sore!
Anyway, I was braced for the tears that never came. Something wonderful happened just at the time when he was about to cry.
See, he wasn’t wearing a top and when he got injured, he pulled his little hand onto his belly to tend to it. As he looked down to assess his wound, the movement of his belly as he breathed captured his attention, and there it stayed for the next few minutes.
He was practicing mindfulness without trying! He was fully present. Fully captivated by the physical movement and sensations within his body, and the powerful thing about the body is that it’s always, always present. We can’t notice our breath yesterday, or listen next week.
Our physical sensations are beautiful anchors that connect us with right here and now.
And – this is the good stuff – when we’re fully present now, we can’t be caught up in stories. Had Joss been caught up in judgment about his pain, he’d have made it so much worse. We all face unavoidable physical and emotional pain, but very often we create additional suffering by resisting the pain.
“I hate this…I don’t want to feel this…I need this to go away…I want this to stop…this isn’t fair…why me….”
When we add the weight of judgment and resistance to pain, we make it a whole lot worse. We suffer. We fire that second arrow that the Buddha talked about; the first being the original source of pain, the second, the additional mental suffering we cause ourselves.
One arrow is more than enough.
And really, it doesn’t matter whether we’re in the middle of child birth or going through a divorce, all pain can me met with mindful presence. I’ve found that in the toughest of challenges, my breath has been my safe haven, my home, my anchor to bring me down out of the thinking, story telling mind, and down to the very precious present moment. My mantra when going through the dark withdrawal from post tumour surgery meds was “just this breath”. I only ever had to focus on this one breath….and then the next….and the next…nothing more.
Every painful experience in life offers us a choice, to either add to our suffering with stories about the pain, or to breathe through it, to release resistence and come home to the present. And mindfulness doesn’t have to be elaborate; no Zen poses on mountain tops required. If all you every do is pause to norice your breath without judgement, you’re doing just fine.
“One conscious breath in and out is a meditation” ~ Eckhart Tolle