Finding my Zen: Breathe

Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while know that the past year and a half has been extremely trying for me. At one of my lowest points last summer, I visited a therapist on the advice of my family doctor. The therapist encouraged me to explore Mindfulness, and to consider taking a class.

Although I didn’t take a class, I did explore. Several quotes over the years from my sister-in-law about Buddhism resonated with me, so I began reading. Two sites were especially helpful, Zen Habits and Tiny Buddha. There were days I did not know how I could possibly continue, and that’s when I turned to Zen Habits and started with the basics: a simple post called “Breathe.” That staple helped me get through the rough points. When tears threatened or when I felt the weight of the world upon my shoulders, I could breathe. Couldn’t do much else, sometimes.

I know the holidays are often very difficult for people. There are times it seems that happiness is all around you, and you feel like an island of pain and suffering and doubt. Even in those moments, you can breathe. If you are having a difficult time, take a moment to read that simple blog post and DO it.

Trust me. You are stronger than you think.

 

Happy Birthday to Me . . .

My birthday, 2010

My birthday, 2010

Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions. When we’re little, we put on crowns or tiaras and hit pinatas and have cake and ice cream. But what happens as we get older? Personally, my birthday is now tinged with sadness. My best friend from high school passed away (cancer) several years ago and I spent my birthday at her visitation. My birthday is now a reminder of loss and how short life can be. To make it worse, this is the first year without my daughter at home.  So . . . what to do? How do you celebrate a birthday when you don’t feel happy, happy, happy?

Simple.

You live in the moment.

You look around you and see all that you have to be thankful for. Family. Friends. Pets (after all, what says unconditional love more than puppy kisses?). Your health. Don’t give me any BUTS. But nothing. You have family. Extended family or adopted family. You have friends (and if you don’t have friends, get off your sorry rear and reach out because there is SOMEONE out there who needs a friend just as much or worse than you do). You may have health issues, but there are those out there who are worse off. Even when our daughter was in the NICU and we didn’t know if she would make it, there were others worse off. We considered ourselves lucky.

Take a deep breath and allow healing energy into your body. Breathe out the negative energy. Picture whiteness entering your body, and darkness exiting.

Take care of yourself. Do what works for you. Personally, writing helps. Scrapbooking helps. Curling up with a good book helps. Making a cake and licking the beaters works.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a sad post. I am not sad today. I feel blessed to be living in a house that is nicer than I ever imagined I’d have, with my husband of nearly 20 years (who surprised me with a Browning .22 this morning – what says love more than a firearm?!) and my puppies around me, and I will get up tomorrow and go to a job that I truly enjoy. Life is good.

But I also recognize that there is an undercurrent of sadness and loss that I feel today.

I feel the sadness, identify it, accept it. And go on. Because life IS good.

Mindfulness

Callaway County Sunrise

Callaway County Sunrise

As 2013 draws to a close, I think back to what was easily one of the most difficult years I’ve ever experienced. It went from a top-of-the-mountain high to a deepest-depths-of-the-ocean low. The year dawned with hope and excitement. My daughter was in her senior year of high school, and was showered with scholarships, awards and good wishes. I was so proud of her, so excited for her. Four days after the party we threw her to celebrate her high school graduation, she left. No explanation. Horrible accusations. The pain I felt was beyond what I ever imagined, and I seriously wondered if I would survive. It seemed a hurt that deep would leave wounds that could never heal.

But they are healing. I saw a therapist, I journaled, I researched, I sought answers. Most importantly, I ALLOWED myself to begin healing. The most helpful thing for me has been MINDFULNESS. If you are dealing with a difficult situation, try this:

  • Breathe. That’s right. Breathe. In. Out. Feel the cleansing air come in through your nostrils and let it fill your lungs. Breathe out, expelling darkness and hurt. Breathe in healing, and breathe out hurt.
  • Be. Just be. Allow yourself to sit quietly. Let your mind flow where it will. Listen to your surroundings. Feel your heartbeat.
  • No expectations. Recognize that whatever you are feeling is valid, but recognize that what you are feeling is just that . . . what YOU are feeling. If you release your expectations of others, and focus instead on what you are feeling, you will begin to heal. The only thing you can control is your reaction to others. (that was my mantra for the holidays “no expectations” – and I ended up having a wonderful holiday season)

Take a moment to look back over 2013, the good and the bad. As you enter 2014, live each moment fully and completely. Appreciate it.

“Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” Dalai Lama