Friday, 26 September 2014
The day I learnt to breathe
Learning to breath again. It sounds ridiculous I know, because we arrive here in a breath. And this breath of ours keeps us alive. But somehow, someway, and at some point I stopped breathing fully. Instead I engaged in a lively, rushed, frantic, stressed (but I wouldn't have admitted that to you at the time) out-of-control, desperately-seeking-control manner that became everyday life. And although I loved so many aspects of this life, it was messy. The stress part was messy, the rushing that kept me in a move-on-to-the-next-thing-without-taking-a-breath pattern was messiest. And that rushing meant I never really slowed enough to just be and connect with the inner me, never stopped to just breathe. So so far from the me I am today. Yet I remember so well how she felt. It hurts to feel like she did, but in a numb kind of way.
And it feels like one day abruptly it all ended. But it wasn't really one day, not at all. It was a mammoth crescendo that started with my body falling apart (in so many ways: back aches and spasms, a breast tumour then an auto-immune disease to be more precise) and the end (which was kind of the start of change) was an 80km/hr head-on car crash. That's the part I want to talk about, because that's when I learnt to breathe again.
It was eight years ago now. I was the passenger, my husband was driving. A car pulled out from the t-intersection four metres in front of us. He hit the brakes but there was no time to stop. I was looking at him on impact and if I hadn't been the doctors said my injuries would be a lot worse. I normally always cross my legs in the car too, and I remember noticing how straight I was sitting and upright minutes before the crash - I remember thinking how good my body felt sitting so still and straight and wondering why I didn't always sit like this. Later the doctors asked if I was sitting perfectly straight, because to not break bones was almost impossible.
My injuries were minimal soft-tissue ones, scratches and cuts - the airbag saved me yet did most of the damage. My face swelled an extra half its size and was covered in cuts, blood and bruising - as was my chest. I just remember noticing all the blood, pouring out my nose, tasting it in my mouth and knowing I needed an ambulance. It was me who called the ambulance, moments later interrupted by a man asking what I was doing, then promptly telling me to rest because he could make the call. I thought he was awfully rude, I was in control and could surely make the call myself! And the minute that thought entered my head I realised there was no control to be had here, and surrender was necessary. All at once I let go, all at once I felt my body relax in trust - that I would be cared for, that someone else had the situation and that would be okay. There was no rushing to be done, just waiting and breathing. Breathing was really all I could do. And breathing was all I needed to do.
As we arrived at the hospital I found myself alone lying on a trolley in a neck brace and panic set in. My breathing got shaky and became too fast. I tried to look around for someone, for help, but the white ceiling was all I got.
Then a hand on mine. Just breathe, she said. It's all you have to do. You can help your body and mind with your breath too - you can manipulate your breath. Breathe deeper, all the way in. And slowly release. Just breathe. Slow your breath down, so all of you slows down....
She was an ambulance officer and I so wish I could remember her name. In those moments of reminding me to breathe, she changed everything for me. I wanted to get to know my breath. I wanted to just breathe. And just be. Breathwork became a part of my everyday. It still is. It's a big part of the meditation I practice and it reminds me always of the beauty, wonder and healing that can happen in a solo breath.
Do you remind yourself to "just breathe" each day?
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