Just Breathe

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.  Conscious breath is my anchor.”–Thich Nhat Hanh 

 

“Yeah I’m a lucky man/ To count on both hands/ The ones I love . . . Stay with me/ Let’s just breathe . . .” as performed by Pearl Jam, lyrics by Eddie Veder

 

“Now, what was I going to do?” 

 

I was talking to myself, but loud enough for one of my EW! (Elevate Writing) Club members to overhear me.

 

“Mrs. Hill, just do what I do when I can’t remember what I wanted to do.  Sit down and say, ‘I am breathing. I am living. I am me.’”

 

“Hmm, Amanda, I am impressed,” I replied.  “Does it work for you?”

 

“Aw, I just made it up here on the spot.  But, it sounded good, huh?”

 

She turned back to her writing as I froze at the profound wisdom this 13 year old had just so casually tossed my way.

 

“I am breathing. I am living. I am me.

 

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I hastily jotted down the words before I forgot them, and then rolled them forward in my mind as a kid rolls a kickball toward a kicker in a game. Unfortunately, it was Friday afternoon, my EW! students were good-heartedly, but loudly, teasing one another as they wrote, and so it was a strike–at least for the moment–as my tired and distracted brain could not connect with the words.  Still, I tucked the yellow sticky- note in my school bag for later retrieval once home. 

 

In fact, as soon as I was home, I placed that sticky-note on my kitchen table, so that I would be reminded of those words for the next few days.  Throughout the weekend, though, my mind, along with my body, was rushing about. Laundry seemed to be overflowing. Errands needed to be ran. There were meetings to attend, groceries to get, and a nearly forgotten, nearly overflowing cat litter box that pretty much summed up my mindset when I finally got around to cleaning it.  That, of all places, was when it hit me.

 

“I am breathing. I am living. I am me.

 

I reflected over the discussions I often lead at the start of the yoga classes I teach.  How frequently have I stated the importance of the breath as a reminder of the presence of God in our life. Our breath, like our heart beat, is automatic.  Both the breath and the heartbeat occur without us ever thinking about them–pulsating and filling our life with living energy. What a marvelous miracle that is in and of itself! 

 

calm blue sea during golden hour
Photo by Sasha Martynov on Pexels.com

 

In yoga, the breath is often referred to as prana, a Sanskrit word that means “vital life force.” It allows us to bring in vital energy and expel out that which does not sustain life.  In yoga practice, the breath is often considered, “the anchor,” the “thing” to come back to–to refocus upon–when the mind begins to wander into thoughts rather than clearing. Stooped as I was, looking down at the waste that needed to be removed from the litter box, it occured to me that perhaps my own mind needed to return to its anchor.

 

“I am breathing. I am living. I am me.

 

As I went through the motions of scooping and cleaning, I began to slow down my breath and simultaneously attempted to clear my own racing thoughts. I began to reflect on a story for which I had asked my mom earlier in the day.

 

“Tell me about Papaw Musick,” I had asked her.

 

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Papaw Musick alongside my Mamaw as they proudly hold their newborn son, my Dad, Larry Musick.

 

He was my paternal grandfather who passed away not long after I was born.  Asking my mom’s impressions about her former father-in-law may have seemed odd, but we were talking about the closing of a local facility, Bellefonte Hospital, which had been the sight of care for many of my loved ones who have now passed on to their heavenly home.  For whatever reason, our conversation made me think of Papaw Musick, and before I had time to think, I had blurted out those words. 

 

My mom smiled immediately. 

 

“Oh, he was a good man, Steph. He was just crazy about you,” and she proceeded to share a few sweet anecdotes.

 

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Papaw Musick holding/feeding newborn me

 

Reflecting on mom’s stories of the small, but stout man who I never really knew, but who once held and cradled me in his arms, tears momentarily filled my eyes.  In fact, I was reminded of one of my favorite photos of him in which he is doing that very thing with my tiny newborn body while holding my a bottle. 

 

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Mamaw Musick with me at her house, 1-2 years after Papaw Musick had passed. I remember Mamaw once telling me that Papaw Musick had always wanted a daughter, so he was happy that his first grandchild was a girl.

 

I am fairly certain that I have Papaw Musick’s large rib cage, as does my Dad, and I further suspect that I have his shoulders and arms–again, like my Dad. I also have the Musick eyes, like my Dad and siblings; and yet, like my mother, I have my Grandmother’s face and lower body shape.  I talk with my hand like the Slaters, my maternal family; but I have the Musick volume; and, both sides of my family gave me the love of Appalachian food and the power of a good story. In fact, without both the Slater and Musick clans coming together, I may not have ever met my husband and shared my life with the Hill/Moore family and . . .

 

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My Dad and me when was about two or so.

 

I was overcome with emotion at all of these thoughts, so I stood up and walked through our home thinking of what a miracle my life, and all lives for that matter, truly are.  As a child, I blamed myself for my parents’ ultimate difficulties. I used to think that if I had never been born, then they would not have been brought together. However, in that moment, it occurred to me that if there had not been a me, then there may not have been my brother and two sisters–for which I am continually grateful.  Which also means, there would not have been such a rich tapestry of relatives with all of their wonderful experiences and stories that now connect me to distant states such as California, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, Florida, and others, in spite of all of us being rooted, at one time, in Kentucky.

 

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My brother, Scott, top center; my sister, Traci, left; me right; and our baby sister, Rachel, bottom center.

 

“I am breathing. I am living. I am me.

 

Thank you Mom and Dad for the gift of my life.  I hate that your married life, while I was growing up (and I suspect, you too, were likewise growing), was so challenging and difficult.  However, there is not a doubt in my mind that you loved us. Despite those trying times, you still provided me with many rich memories, stories, recipes, and the love of extended family for which I am thankful.  

 

I hope that one day, I will meet Pappaw Musick, and all those who have gone before me, and perhaps hold them all in some form of an eternal embrace.

 

I am not sure Amanda knew the inspirational power of the words she shared with me, but I certainly do appreciate that I was there to hear to them. *****

 

Amanda Day, an eighth grader at St. Joseph Catholic Middle School, is also an EW! Club member, writer extraordinaire, and the source of inspiration for this piece.

img_0620  Sigh, just breathe.

4 thoughts on “Just Breathe

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