Tag Archive | the joy of each breath

Breath

I’m grateful for my own breath, and for the breath of the forest. This morning, after a quarter inch of rain last night, we walked through the woods, and I chanced to turn and see backlit by the rising sun, the respiration of a juniper tree. Or so it seemed to me. With each exhalation the tree released a mist. I’m grateful to live at a pace where I am able to notice such quotidian natural phenomena, and grateful that my old dog makes sure I get out to walk early in the morning.

I’m grateful, too, that he make sure I get out and walk in the evening, when we go search for Mr. Turtell, which is what Stellar calls Biko. Find Turtell, I tell him, and he trots off ahead of me around the yarden perimeter. He almost always finds Biko on the first circuit, and gets rewarded with a handful of treats. Sometimes he’s a bit vague, and I encourage him, Show me! Then he will bounce on his front feet and bark, to make sure I know which sagebrush to look under.

I’m grateful after twenty years to have come to understand a bit of a tortoise mind; grateful to live with a keeper of slow time. Biko is like a sundial, reliably tucking in under a sagebrush or juniper where the last rays of light will fall in a day, and/or where the first will come in the morning. Over the years I’ve learned to look in certain places certain seasons. In a yard full of late afternoon shade, see how he has parked himself where he’ll get the longest, last rays of sun. My knowledge of his habits, and Stellar’s help, will be increasingly important over the next few weeks as temperatures approach Biko’s threshold. Tomorrow, the forecast is a low of 38℉, just below his tolerance of 40º. We’ll go for a turtle hunt around five, and bring him inside until morning. I’m grateful for the arrival of autumn, with its breath of fresh air.

Breath

Breathing in the peaceable kingdom, evening.

I focused on my breath a lot today.

I used to drive across the country once or twice a year, for more than twenty years. I felt really confident in my driving, and in my ability to handle anything that came up. But in recent years, while I’m still confident in my driving abilities, I’m less sure of the skills and wisdom of other drivers; also, the pandemic sapped my desire to go anywhere anyway. So I practiced focusing on my breath several times this morning before heading out on the highway, just to keep myself grounded. Then at the hospital, I breathed intentionally to keep calm through the intake and waiting areas. I’m grateful for how well DCMH maintains their Covid protocol, and this time I sailed through the process to get to radiology.

An MRI itself used to make me feel claustrophobic, but the new machine is like a giant donut and much easier to breathe in. I chose classical music, which happened to be a dramatic symphony that meshed in a fascinating way with the sounds of the machine. At the same time, I focused on my breath, with an awareness of thoughts arising and falling away. I surrendered to the noise: It was a lovely meditation. I’m grateful I have learned the mindfulness skills to approach this potentially grueling outing with equanimity, and make the most of what had to be done. We’ll know more later about the outcome, and I’m not worried about it, expecting only to gain information.

Then after I got home and decontaminated with a hot shower (one of the things in life I am most grateful for! Imagine–clean water flowing from the mountains through pipes underground, into a holding tank, pumped via solar power into my home, pouring out hot in a fountain in my very own shower! Life doesn’t get any better), I sat outside on the patio for a long time, just breathing, recuperating the energy it took to sustain equanimity throughout the day. Then I chaired a zoom meeting, and later sat outside again for a long while with Stellar and some cervid friends, breathing with the rhythm of the phoebes’ flights to and from their nest overhead; punctuated with occasional hummingbird frenzies off to the side. I spent a good portion of the day just being grateful for each breath.

The Joy of Each Breath

I’m grateful for being able to breathe fresh, clean mountain air.

I’m grateful for every single breath, whether or not I’m aware of it, and I try to be aware of my breath many times during the day. Sometimes just a single breath, sometimes a few, sometimes for five minutes, or twenty-five, I focus on the sensation of the breath.

My friend Kim and I try to meditate spontaneously together once a day. One of us will text an invitation, and usually within a few minutes we’ve both settled somewhere quiet with a guided meditation, or just a silent timer set for five or ten minutes. “The joy of each breath” comes from a meditation we did this evening, led by Peter Harper, The Drunken Monk, on Insight Timer. The joy of each breath. It really is a joy when you can breathe fully, and take a moment to pause, notice, and really feel a single inhalation-exhalation cycle. Or give yourself ten minutes to truly allow yourself to relax, release, let go. Relaxation is a skill not well known nor practiced in this predominant culture. It’s so much more than kicking back on the couch with a beer watching TV, or sitting on the deck with a martini savoring sunset, or having a great time pursuing any kind of sensory stimulation. It’s letting go of all that, resting in the stillness of nowhere to go, nothing to do. Each breath really is a miracle.

I’m grateful I had shells and homemade sauce in the pantry, ricotta and kale in the fridge. It was a good day to make stuffed shells, sprinkled with a little mozzarella because everything is better with cheese. The recipe came from a Level 4 Vegan cookbook, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. I fried the onions in bacon grease and used real cheese, but technically a vegan could make this delicious meal, which proportionizes readily for freezing.
Three for lunch (these are gigantic shells), and two fives for later.

Because several people asked for the Cheesos recipe, here are the sources of inspiration for both Cheesos and the Shells. I’m not entirely digital – I still love actual cookbooks, and have a few reliable go-tos besides my own 3×5 card file, a folder of printed recipes, my mother’s lifetime recipe notebook, and two staples that forged my appetite: mom relied on The Joy of Cooking, and the Colonel swore by Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School bible. I’m also grateful for cookbooks!

Cheesos recipe from the 21-Day Ketogenic Weight Loss Challenge book.
The “NEW” Fannie Farmer, ©1951 — it’s older than I am!

Sometimes during the day, after I notice something like these cookbooks, and pay attention, and take stock of the luxuries in my life, I take a deep breath – a big sigh – and am suddenly aware of this breath – and then this breath – and I recognize the astonishing chain of events that led to my being here, in this moment, holding this cookbook that is older than I am. Each breath is a miracle. Oxygen is the real drug; breathing, the ultimate high.