Sunday, 02 September 2012 00:00


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“Listen – are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

Mary Oliver (from Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?)

This is a serious and pervasive problem – this lack of breath, this lack of a life. How many of you sometimes notice that there is not enough air in your lungs; that thoughts race through your mind about what happened today, yesterday, before that; that your concern is with the future (a future that may never come, not as you imagine and worry about it)?

How much time did you spend with your babies today, staring at new leaves, tracking a caterpillar? How much time did you spend with your lover or your friend, laughing at private jokes, eating stuff that is bad for you? How much time did you spend with yourself, breathing?

Someone spoke to me recently about his surprise when he returned to the place of his early (pre-verbal) childhood and found it so familiar. We don’t think about the fact that we spend the first years of our lives very close to the land simply because we are little. Many children nowadays will be familiar with concrete, the detritus of other people’s lives, speeding traffic, an early morning rush to a busy child care centre. Many also will have the pleasure of time among the long grass, the feel of mud and the whisper of small life. This is the beginning of an engagement with life, this early time. The quality of later life (the ability to breathe, to be with oneself) is influenced by the quality of early life.

But if you have lost those gifts or never had them, there are ways to discover or re-discover them. All around you there are those who know the secrets. They have written about them in books. They offer courses – mindfulness, meditation, walking groups, drawing classes, wine appreciation, and lots more. There are many ways to be in the moment, paying close attention to what is. You can start today by taking some time to do something that does not hold a goal, that is just about noticing what is around you and in you right now. Take 5 deep breaths and see if you can stay with the sensation of air entering and leaving your body.

Life is going on. It is a river. Jump in.

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Copyright © Barbara Churcher - Counsellor and Psychotherapist. All Rights Reserved.