When Breathing and Walking feel like too much…
Some days, you can wake up and everything feels like too much to bear. Today was one of those days for me. I hardly slept last night — my mind was on overdrive.
Was it because it’s the anniversary of September 11th? That day was a tough one for me, like a lot of people. Was it that I knew I had a 7.45 am conference call to deal with a family issue that feels overwhelming and never-ending? Was it because yesterday was such a tough day? Was it because I’m thinking about too much suffering in the world — because this morning the newest horrendous pit bull hoarding story is on my mind? Was it because I have so many things to get done, many of which I don’t think are EVER going to get done, but I haven’t given up on them yet — which is pretty overwhelming. Of course it was a combination of all that and more.
Three things helped me today. All involved helping others and receiving their support. What Buddhism calls Sangha… community.
The first was the dreaded conference call itself. It reminded me I’m not alone in dealing with this seemingly never to be solved issue, even if I felt horribly alone lying in bed thinking about it this morning. It also reminded me that I love the people involved, and no matter how hard some of the situations we have to deal with, that love is very, very precious to me.
The second thing that helped was an email from a friend, telling me that our conversation yesterday was helpful and offering me this…
“Thanks for reminding me of a compassionate way to handle severe anxiety. I kept going “okay, now I’m worrying again.” “I’m thinking about the pain and trying to decide what it is, even though there’s no way to know yet.”
I realized I am really really afraid of dying before I live the way I want. I am afraid of death because I am afraid that I am not living my authentic life. Yikes. So I thought what if it’s true, then what is the best thing to be doing today? So I went downtown and went to an art gallery, rather than cleaning up the storm damage. I love you very much and thanks for your friendship and your wisdom.”
My friend offered me her thanks, but gave me a gift of perspective. I too forget to do the delight things and get lost in the burden things. A Rumi poem that sometimes helps me remember this is:
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
And the third thing that clinched it for me was an email from a client, telling me about a very challenging week she is in the middle of. She is having to carry a lot of family responsibility, and as I read her words, I felt inspired to send her a recording of a little chant I made up to a poem by Thich Nhat Hahn. I found it on my computer, and hit play, to make sure it was the right recording, and as I listened, I realized that I needed to hear it today as much as she did.
Even though I recorded it five years and a month ago, I didn’t really get the meaning until today. This morning, I heard the words, “Let the Buddha breath, let the Buddha walk,” and I realized, “Ah! It’s for when breathing feels like too much. When walking feels like too much.” It allowed me to finally let go and set down the burden for today.
So here it is… may it bring you the ease it brought me this morning, and may it not take you five years and month!
Let the Buddha breathe
Let the Buddha walk
I don’t need to breathe
I don’t need to walk
The Buddha is breathing
The Buddha is walking
I enjoy the breathing
I enjoy the walking
The Buddha is the breathing
The Buddha is the walking
I am the breathing
I am the walking
There is only the breathing
There is only the walking
There is no one breathing
There is no one walking
Peace while breathing
Peace while walking
Peace is the breathing
Peace is the walking
Joy while breathing
Joy while walking
Joy is the breathing
Joy is the walking
~Thich Nhat Hahn