A friend of mine said to me, “breath is everything”. I couldn’t help but be narrow-eyed and jaded. “Everything?” I asked. That’s a big word.
“It’s the beginning of everything. Everything starts from the breath,” she continued.
Still muddled, though less jaded, I started to let that thought work its marinade at the back of my mental refrigeration storage unit. It sat there for awhile.
And then, a few days later, events entered my life that created anxiety. An emergency here. A major worry there, my mind and soul whirring off of their mountings. Breathe. Just breathe, I remembered. It’s the simplest thing I can do. It’s the one thing I can do successfully right now if I take the time to do it thoughtfully, intentionally. In this time of spinning outward into the stratosphere, I can center on the very thing that gives me life: breathing. I can give myself this gift of life within the twirling chaos.
Breathing. It isn’t everything, but it is the beginning of everything. Sometimes paring life down to bare bones beginnings can open up worlds in us that may lead to other places. Better places.I’m banking on it; I’m breathing on it.
The other night, deep in the darkness of my nylon tent, deep in the depths of a summer night, camping along the Hood Canal, I felt afraid. There were many things that night that felt like sudden spinning stars plunging into the cold depths of a frigid sky that I had no control over- you know the ones: the health issues of a loved one, financial stress, the slow dying of a friend, and, as I lay trembling in my interiors,I felt the dark night of the soul slowly eclipsing the dark night of the sky in a thick molasses. As these thoughts crawled up and over my body, I remembered a quote by Mary Oliver from her poem, “Wild Geese”: “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
Those words sank in deeper and deeper. I noticed that soon, very soon, I became soft and supple inside. I know what that looks like- what that feels like. “The soft animal of my body”- the simple, tender rhythm of being alive, just alive. Not working out the solutions to all of the conundrums in my world. Not even pondering, problem-solving, or even praying in this case. But letting the tender, tethered parts of me that belong to this world, have their place here. To be coddled by the earth. Caressed by the cool-scented night wind. To find comfort in the simplicity of my own skin, my own being, “the soft animal of my body.” And to let it “love what it loves”. Which now is sleep. Simplicity. Gentle rest.
What does “the soft animal of your body” need today? How can you let it “love what it loves”?