Things have smoothed out around here since my parents’ quick visit and trip into NYC for my Dad’s annual cancer check up. I am sleeping better and doing better overall.
Then yesterday we had a massive snowstorm. We knew about it well in advance so thankfully all the OR cases were cancelled- so I got the day off. My husband’s job also closed so he was home all day here with me.
Being snowed in is never a pleasant situation for two people that are not in a great place in their relationship. Especially since we have had more than enough of winter and snow around here. Everyone is sick of winter.
And I am really thankful that I thought about it beforehand. I wanted to do my very best not to go into negativity, or get sucked into any negativity coming from my husband.
I used the day as an experiment, a spiritual practice— I did my best to practice mindfulness and stay in the present.
And I did something cool with my breathing that really helped me and I wanted to share with you today…
When I first woke up I immediately thought about the whole day ahead of me and it felt heavy. It felt like a lot. But I remembered what I recently learned– that our cortisol levels are highest first thing in the morning. I knew I had to just get up and get going- get out of my thinking head.
I went downstairs and grabbed the big pillow I like to sit on for meditation. Before I started I just looked out looking out the window in the dark and took in all the snow. It was quite beautiful – it blanketed everything and outside was absolutely silent.
My husband was already up and had the weather channel on and I could hear it coming from the other room.
I sat for my 6 minutes in silence and did my best to connect to my breathing and to my body. To stay focused on where I was on the cushion and not go off in my head.
Over morning coffee I was looking at a book that was recommended to me. Unfortunately I couldn’t buy the book because our credit card number was stolen over the weekend! We were supposed to have our new credit cards delivered yesterday but as I said, it was a huge snowstorm, so that wasn’t happening.
Anyhow, the book is called The Presence Process: A Healing Journey Into Present Moment Awareness by Michael Brown. It is essentially about how to use the present moment to heal yourself from pain and suffering. God knows this has been my path for years now. But what is interesting about this book is it focuses a lot on breathing. Specifically it teaches not to hold your breath, but to breathe with regularity all the time.
I read a sample of the book and also a lot of the Amazon reviews. Brown says that if you watch an animal, say your dog, you will notice that it breathes regularly all the time. The rate of breathing my go up or down, depending on activity and what the animal is feeling, but it never holds its breath.
What an epiphany!
I hold my breath constantly! And guess what, I bet you do too! I think all people who have anxiety probably do without realizing it. But this small thing- breathing without stopping – is the key to hold you in the present and keep you feeling ok.
That’s all I needed to hear.
So guess what I did all day yesterday? 🙂 Well as much as I could remember– I did my best to breathe in and out. To keep it slow and regular, but not to hold it. To just keep going back to breathing. Keeping it regular. Like the ocean waves going in and out when you stand on the shore….
Here is a cool little gif thingy I found that shows how to do it:
About an hour later I got up to get dressed.
Him: Where are you going?
Me: I’m going out to shovel the back porch.
Him: That’s a complete waste of time. It’s too cold and windy. You won’t’last one minute. I’m doing it later don’t bother. Look at that wind! Blah blah blah…” (I stopped listening because it was all negative….)
Me: Breathing in and out, not holding breath…. “Well, I guess I’ll find out. I just feel like going on the porch.”
What I didn’t do: Say something sarcastic to him (my old pattern). No way Jose. We are so triggered by each other in even the least amount of stress. This I considered a lot of stress, and one off comment can put us over the edge and right into an argument. So I was very happy that I kept the focus on my reaction and on not saying anything negative in response to him.
So I went out on the porch and it wasn’t bad at all. The snow was already over 2 feet but it was light and fluffy and easy to shovel. So I took grateful breaths of air and just shoveled off about half the porch. I loved being outside and felt so happy and grateful. The wind was gusting but I know how to layer really well, so it wasn’t a problem. If anything I was overdressed. 😉
And do you know what happened? Just by me going outside without putting out negativity– by being focused on my reactions and my breathing and minding my own business– to my delight, when I went back inside, Bob was outside doing the driveway with the snowblower.
I went out and did the front porch. And I kept up my ‘not holding my breath’ breathing.
When he was done doing the driveway, he came in all covered in snow.
Him: It’s fucking horrible out there!! Blah blah blah…
Me: Here, let me help you take off your boots.
I continued on with the day in the same manner. I kept focusing on ‘not holding my breath’ breathing. And I stayed mindful of what I was doing.
I was very, very grateful to be in such a light and good space in a situation that would 100% in the past have caused us to fight or argue.
I continued ‘not holding my breath’ breathing as I made some nice chicken breasts with brown gravy. They came out good. Then I made killer chocolate chip cookies.They came out delicious!
Can I just say when I laid down to go to sleep last night, I was so very grateful. The day was not without challenges. My husband gets angry very easily & his habit is to shout and swear. He suffers from depression and bipolar and is off his meds- he can’t tolerate them. I have to watch my reactions because I can set him off with just a look or comment. Because then I go into fear and anger…
But I held it together– I kept my big blabbermouth shut for saying anything out of reaction and negativity. I kept my inner space peaceful— and as a result I think- the energy in the house was also for the most part pretty peaceful too.
Thank you Lord. It was so worth it!
Do me a favor- I want you to try this ‘not holding your breath’ breathing the next time you are challenged, stressed, anxious, or angry. Let me know how it goes. I really loved it and felt it tempered my reactivity. It also kept me calm and in the present. It was wonderful and felt very nice!
I am going to try to breathe this way all the time now! I put a reminder on my phone so I can see it during the day at work!
In closing I hope that everyone affected by the storm is safe and doing ok! I hope you will try this awesome breathing tip- to not hold your breath- and keep breathing, slow and regular. In and out, just like the ocean waves.
How are things going for you?
I wish you peace,