Take a Break From Stress: The Art of Staying Present With Breath Amidst The Pain

Meeting #19: June 2, 2020

Theme: Watching George Floyd die has brought suffering to all of us.  Feeling the anguish of the crowds and demonstrators and even the rioters and looters; feeling the same anguish ourselves.  Where is love in this suffering?  It feels hard to find love right now, but love is always there.  Can we respond to the anguish with strong minds and tender hearts?  If we are to meet this challenge, we cannot forget to give ourselves a rest from time to time, a period of recollection of the good as food for our journey.  Simply remembering the unconditional love we have experienced can bring us that needed relief.

Today’s Quotes:

“Please, the knee in my neck.  I can’t move.  Mama! Mama!  My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts.  Just some water or something, please.  You’re gonna kill me man.  I cannot breathe.”

— George Floyd’s last words.

For John of the Cross, his suffering opened up onto something unexpected.  John discovered that although it was true that he could not find refuge from suffering when he was in his prison cell, he also discovered that the suffering he had to endure had no refuge from God’s love that could take the suffering away, but rather permeated the suffering through and through and through and through and through. Love protects us from nothing, even as it unexplainably sustains us in all things. Access to this love is not limited by our finite ideas of what it is or what it should be. Rather, this love overwhelms our abilities to comprehend it, as it so unexplainably sustains us and continues to draw us to itself in all that life might send our way.

— James Finlay in “The Divine Ambush”

The other day I was ricocheting slowly

off the blue walls of this room,

moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,

from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,

when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary

where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist

could send one into the past more suddenly—

a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp

by a deep Adirondack lake

learning how to braid long thin plastic strips

into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard

or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,

but that did not keep me from crossing

strand over strand again and again

until I had made a boxy

red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,

and I gave her a lanyard.

She nursed me in many a sick room,

lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,

laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,

and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.

Here are thousands of meals, she said,

and here is clothing and a good education.

And here is your lanyard, I replied,

which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,

strong legs, bones and teeth,

and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,

and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.

And here, I wish to say to her now,

is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,

but the rueful admission that when she took

the two-tone lanyard from my hand,

I was as sure as a boy could be

that this useless, worthless thing I wove

out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

— Billy Collins “The Lanyard”

Gently Guided Meditation: Breath/Body/Mind & Lovingkindness

Video Recording of the Meeting:



Meeting #20: June 4, 2020

Theme: Recent events have imprinted the words “I can’t breathe” in our hearts and minds.  How often and how easily we breathe!  Yet how often do we allow our minds to be aware of our breath?  How often do we allow our breathing to be the foundation of our experiencing?  When we feel doubt, despair, anger or any other painful feeling, the breath is there with us, always ready to be noticed and cherished.  Awareness of our breath is always the beginning of any journey to every sort of healing.  Each of us has the capacity to make a volitional choice to become aware again, and again, and again.

Today’s Quotes:

Breathe.  Let go.  And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.  — Oprah Winfrey

When the breath is unsteady, all is unsteady; when the breath is still, all is still.  Control the breath carefully.  Inhalation gives strength and a controlled body; retention gives steadiness of mind and longevity; exhalation purifies body and spirit.  — Yoga maxim

Pause.  Breathe.  Repair the universe.  Then proceed.  — Author unknown.

Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body.

Without awareness of breathing, there can be no development of meditative stability and understanding.

—Thich Nhat Hanh

For breath is life, so if you breathe well you will live long on earth.    Sanskrit proverb

Gently Guided Meditation: Breath/Body/Mind awareness with practice of Resonant/Coherent Breathing.

Video Recording of Meeting: