One of the things I do in my morning routine is a bit of reading. I have a few books that are always present in the line up, but I have a few that I read to complete and then set aside and replace with new. One of the most recent additions is, Looking at Mindfulness by Christophe Andre. I picked up this beauty on a recent trip to the Getty Museum, I had a friend in town from South Africa who had never been. I really enjoyed the day looking at art, but coming away with this pretty pink book was really the highlight of my day.
The book uses paintings to discuss different aspects of mediation and mindfulness. This morning I read the second chapter called “Breathe.” The chapter talks about the importance of breath in our lives, it’s the core of mediation.
The author writes extensively about the importance of breath, its functions in calming us down, and simplicity of this.
But what really caught me today was when Andre starts to talk about breath teaching us about dependence and fragility. “Breath teaches us about humility. Breathing is at once voluntary and involuntary, teaching us to accept that we cannot control everything.”
Throughout the reading I was very conscious of my breathing, the deep inhalations as read aloud. The little gasps as I instantly thought about how they felt in my chest. But then my chest tightened. I was reminded how my mother used to have to think about drawing in breath and then pushing it out to exhale, I heard in my mind the wheezing that her chest made. It has been a long time since I thought about this, and I began to remember.
We sat most often in the living room in the damp summer heat of the Natal South Coast(South Africa), and yet we always seemed to be drinking hot tea. The three of us would talk for hours, my mother, my sister and I. But everyday I waited for an attack, and everyday it came. I had become quite good at doing the things needed to get back to normalcy, well normalcy for my mother with 17% lung function, hardly normal.
She would make her way to the stable door looking out over the back yard, I would grab her asthma pump and a glass of iced water as quickly as I could. Then I would cup my hands and firmly cup her back releasing the spasm and phlegm that would send her into this state. The fear in these moments was intense. I feared everyday that I wouldn’t be able to fix the situation, that somehow I would fail. Feared that this time things would not end in the sipping of the iced water and 20 minutes on a nebulizer.
I am only recounting this story because it reminds me how precious life was to her, how desperately she wanted things to be different. How lucky I am everyday to be able to just breathe, to have that luxury. The luxury of a breathe that can bring me calm and give me life at the same time. This year I am donating $1 from every calendar I sell to alpha1.org. After all these years I am accepting that this is a real thing in my life. I of course know that my small contribution will barely make a dent in the funds needed to help find a cure. But I know that contributing towards that is important for me and my peace.
Today I will breathe in gratitude for the life I have thanks to the sacrifices of a woman, who gave me everything she could to her very last breath. Knowing that she lived to see me grown, and have me the most love person can receive. What are you going to breathe in gratitude for today?