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On Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I took a walk in one of our favorite local places. No one was there. We came out of the woods and stopped on the great lawn stretched before us and breathed in the descending sun. The spacious warmth of that moment is one I can easily recall days later and it brings me home to my breath as I do. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says the breath is like an internal massage that nourishes all our organs; the breath massages the whole body from the inside out. Of course it does and yet so much of the time it is so easy to forget that we can experience it this way - if only we pay attention.
When I first come into meditation, following my breath often feels like I am trying to follow something elusive. I have to listen and feel carefully. It's not very deep or long. It's as though I have to catch up to it, but as I do and as I gradually let go of the effort and tension in my body, the breath becomes what it actually is...everything. I am here, in this form, because I am breathing. The more I let go of the contraction in my muscles and my mind, the more I sense the movement of the breath throughout all of me and it does feel nourishing. I feel my belly, my chest, my shoulders, my pelvis, my rib cage expand and soften back in - a beautiful rhythm of movement that is not elusive at all. It is our faithful companion, what we can return to at any moment. Learning to receive it has been the greatest gift. It is what I can come back to whenever I feel scared, separate, or weighed down. Our breath is here for us and it brings us into the present moment - the only moment we are actually alive.
This week I am making a deliberate effort to tune into my breathing more of the time - outside of meditation. As I write this, I am following my breathing; as I watched Netflix last night, I followed by breathing; as I empty the dish washer, fold clothes, walk, I can tune in. My body is thanking me. It already feels more relaxed. I may not be giving massages anymore, but I can help you to receive your own. I want everyone to be able to help themselves. It is such a powerful thing to self-soothe and to have a sense of agency about our own well-being. This week I invite you to join me and deepen your commitment throughout the day (for more on commitment, have a listen to Sunday's talk). Tune in and follow along with the song that is playing inside. It is the song of your life.
Breathe well and be happy.