Walking the Walk

Taking Steps on the Path to Compassionate Living

Breathing in...Breathing out

I arrived home and opened Facebook where several friends had shared live video footage from the ongoing efforts to stop the construction of the North Dakota pipeline through sacred tribal lands: police in riot gear, a few water protectors shouting at them. I started watching.

Shouting is not the same as holding a baton, ready to strike.

The image froze on the police, faces shielded, batons across their bodies. Though not as ominous, my mind shifted momentarily to the "peacekeepers" in The Hunger Games. On my screen the image of the police changed to a screen with a geometric pattern. Was the signal lost or blocked? By the time the video came back on, the police were moving, telling protesters to move south. Some water protectors faced the police, walking backwards as the police moved towards them. “Keeping moving south or we’ll arrest you.”

I start writing with the video on, though I can’t see it as I type. I only listen.

This is not what I thought I was going to write about when I opened a new post.

I turn to the video and see armored police vehicles. I think of Palestine.

I return to my page.

This morning I woke up grumpy. I had no excuse for my mood except that I was tired. The mood followed me through the day. It’s actually been haunting me for several days, coming and going as ghosts do. The source is a sense of loneliness, a desire for more constancy than my current relationships provide, a ghost that visits me periodically, even in times like now when I am being showered with love and love and more love from far and wide. I would like to befriend this visitor, Loneliness, but thus far we haven't hit it off.  

This afternoon I had a meeting at the local Tibetan Buddhist center. The friend I was supposed to meet with was tied up in a call when I arrived.  I had arrived a few minutes late, but my attention only focused on her lack of immediate availability. I could feel a foul mood sweep over me again – resentment, loneliness, anger, impatience, each out of proportion to my current situation. And on top of these, frustration with myself for feeling all those things.

I type now and hear chanting and the rhythm of a drum, what I assume is prayer. I turn to the image and see the chanters standing calmly, feet planted solidly the ground, as their voices sing words I understand only in the way one understands rustling leaves or rushing water: they offer soothing beauty.

I return to the page.

As I sat waiting and stewing earlier, it occurred to me that a few feet in front of me was a beautiful shrine, a room that for me is peace. I entered, sat down, crossed my legs, closed my eyes, and turned my attention to breathing. The aroma of incense lingered in the air as I started to take deep, slow breaths.

Breathing in peace.

Breathing out, releasing anger.

Ah, yes, there are things I need to let go of.

Breathing in peace.

Breathing out, releasing sadness.

Breathing in peace.

Breathing out, releasing impatience.

Breathing in peace.

Breathing out, releasing intolerance.

Breathing in peace.

Feeling my body relax, calm.

Knowing I am ready to offer something different to myself, to the world around me.

Breathing in peace.

Breathing out acceptance.

Breathing in peace.

Breathing out love.

Breathing in love.

Breathing out patience.

Breathing in love.

Breathing out gratitude.

Breathing in love.

Breathing out gratitude.

Breathing in love.

Breathing out peace.

Breathing in love.

Breathing out peace.

I opened my eyes, ready to meet with my friend. Ten or 15 minutes had passed.  She had just finished her call.

She apologized for being late. She apologized for a few other things from the last few months that she labeled as “failures.” If I had not spent time in the shrine, I feel certain I would only have given an insincere “It’s ok” in return. Having had those minutes to focus, I could tell her that her that her delay had been a blessing and that her perceived failures had also allowed me unexpected gifts.

The video behind my writing has ended. I am relieved by the quiet, but left wondering about the well-being of all whose faces and voices passed through my consciousness.

I want to be there. If the protests continue, if my presence is needed, I will go in a few weeks.

In this moment, I am far away. In this moment, I can offer no more than my breath, my calm, my prayer.

This afternoon as the meeting with my friend wrapped up, she apologized again for our late start. I assured her that the wait had offered a gift, sacred solitude, that unfolded into other gifts.

I carried them home: calm, trust, patience. I nearly allowed them to spill out, wasted, as I watched and listened to the video. And then I heard and saw the prayer.

I remembered my own prayer hours before in the shrine.

Now, holding peace gently, I leave my hands open,

ready to receive what may come,

ready to release what must go.  

Breathing in love.

Breathing out peace.

 

  

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