Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Just Breathe

“Just breathe” The invitation floats to me across the mist above the river.

Driving the same old route home from the school run and captured by the glimpse of hazy water as I passed, I find myself standing on the pier facing the broadening estuary, the mistline just below treeline forming ethereal shapes, one sleeping fishing boat and one bobbing bird the only black against expansive grey.

My internal space feels nothing like the serene, open space before me – tight, tense, packed full and spinning. Though no great tragedy has crossed my threshold, still the full gamut of human emotions dances in my veins this morning: anxiety, sadness, fear, shame, longing, guilt, loneliness... And my heart and mind reach out greedily, desperately, towards and beyond the calm generosity of the riverscape. I need something more, want something more.

“Just breathe.”

Could it be that simple? Just to stand. Just to be. Just to breathe. Not grasp, grab, grapple. Not clutch for answers or meaning... or even rescue. No need to understand, process or resolve all the swirl and churn.

But I’m not sure that’s enough for me, or if I am even able to stop, and let go...

And then I notice. This river, this mist, this sky, these trees and clouds and birds, they make no demands on me. They ask for nothing. So why should I demand anything of them, why stand greedy on this wharf? They are effortlessly what they are, and that is their gift to me, if I can receive it. The unselfconsciously graceful arc of the bird’s neck a second before it dives underwater, black blot absorbed ripplelessly into the vast silver. And, on the far bank, those faithful friends the silver birches remain rooted to their spot, content to exist. They know themselves as part of the whole, as freely sustained, just as the air offers itself to me without reserve or cost or need to be noticed.

I breathe. I am. My inner swirl is like the mist. It just is.

No other stage on which my life plays out offers me so fully this gift, picture, mirror, example. In every arena I bring desires, demands, expectations, and am met by the same in return. I do not object to this, you understand; these are the stuff, the fuel, of human interaction and endeavour. But, oh, to hold these lightly and play them blithely! Oh to complete my next needful task with the same unselfconscious grace as that one bobbing bird!

And so I rediscover what I have finally and recently been learning after almost forty years on the planet: that it is worth taking even five minutes out of my work day to go for a walk in the woods, or ten minutes out of a long journey to look at the sea. Stepping off the stage for mere minutes immerses me in the healing power of nature’s unforced presence, and in its gentle invitation simply to exist, and know my existence to be supported. Just to be.

“Just. Breathe.”

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