Up here in the north Pacific, we sit under smoke-filled skies. Those of you in the Southern Hemisphere are no stranger to summer wildfires. It’s uncanny when the world, writ large, moves in and makes herself known– we are truly at her mercy.
Last night, while noticing how challenging it was to breathe, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend and experienced meditator some months ago. We were talking about what he loves most about practicing meditation. He spoke of his extended retreat in Burma, and of the challenges of staying put amidst physical pain or emotional irritation. In his relaxed, yet poignant style he added, “You know there’s something about taking a breath…” he paused, “It might just be the most sovereign act a person can take.”
His simple, yet bold statement stayed with me, and without knowing why, I began repeating it in my head while I struggled to breathe last night.
After hours of taking in as little smoke-fraught air as possible, I decided I would try it–to take a breath–my own sovereign breath, despite the shallow breaths my physiology intelligently performed on my behalf to protect me.
Driven by a spark of new intention, I slowly inhaled, drawing air past the pre-set threshold of my own system, and on into a luxuriously rounded, fully expanded, oasis of choice. I breathed a full, slow, breath, and to my surprise, it was like walking into a clear, cool, dark room, with me as the breath maestra. I somehow didn’t notice the smoke, or the heat, or the low-grade frustration and fear I’d been feeling merely minutes ago. All there was was space, empowerment, and yes, some joy.
How intriguing, I thought. I’d always heard meditators say, ‘Return to the breath, the breath is everything’, and I always resisted trying it.
But once inside my sovereign breath, the very next thought revealed a root to my long-standing aversion to focusing on my breath. This rounded, fully-expanded, clear, cool, dark room was not only a room, but a womb.
I’d been a shallow breather all my life. I knew from my studies and from working with my patients, that babies, even in the womb, will take shallower breaths if confronted with stress molecules, cigarette smoke, alcohol, or any unwanted substance in their mother’s blood-food. The smoke made me confront my memory of unwanted chemicals in the womb, and my life-preserving habit of taking less oxygen. Breathing on my own terms, even within an unwanted environment was empowering last night, and had a corrective, strangely transformative effect on my past.
In my soon-to-be-released book, It’s Never Too Late: Healing Prebirth and Birth At Any Age, I talk about these surprising womb and birth-relics. Through the scientific work of my predecessors and colleagues, I show how symptoms in teenagers and adults can be anchored in these early times. I speak to parents about how to work with their baby early, so they need not grow so deeply into their womb and birth habits.
I’m still proving, at least to myself, that it’s never too late, and what better place for me to wish you and any of you who are shallow breathers, to do as my friend suggested, and take a sovereign breath. Who knows, it might even be your very first.
For those of you who like to get a jump on things and pre-order, I’m releasing news of my book’s on sale date, next week!
And there is still some room in my upcoming Soul Of Things retreat, Sept. 14th-16th, in Vancouver, let me know if we might meet there.
Breathe easily and sovereignly, friends.
With Love and Care,