Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Holding your breath

Yesterday I saw this article posted on Facebook: Breath-Holding In The Pool Can Spark Sudden Blackouts And Death

I thought about how much I've been holding my breath lately. 

Yesterday, Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover was released and took social media by storm. I held my breath, waiting for the transphobia and hate, because that's what you do when you have a kid who is gender non-binary. You hold your breath and hope that the world gets better and more loving and understanding. You hold your breath and hope that there are way more of us, allies and advocates, than there are of them (I'm looking at you Drake Bell and Fox News). 

I hold my breath, waiting for the transitions to shake out at work. Hoping that my work is noticed, that my passion is valued. 

I hold my breath when I travel, knowing that inevitably one of my kiddos or one of their schools will call me and I won't be there to fix it. 

I hold my breath as the side project I've been working on takes off like a jet, article published in TIME magazine and big meetings with important people that could mean big, big things. 

I hold my breath so my husband doesn't hear me wheezing the last few nights. He does anyway and knows that this cold I'm trying to ignore is kicking my butt. 

I hold my breath when I see a text from one of my sons. He is unhappy but fixing it would mean conflict and there's nothing he hates more than conflict. I hold my breath waiting for him to tell me he's ready for it. 

I hold my breath when I step out of my office building at the end of the day and the air is like breathing oil. Since the oil spill in Santa Barbara a couple weeks ago, there are times when the fumes are still so bad where we live that you can't ignore it. We shouldn't ignore it. 

There are so many other times I hold my breath. Sometimes I find myself taking a deep, gasping breath and realize I've been holding it in. 

When I saw the headline yesterday, I wondered if blackouts and sudden death were only symptoms from holding your breath under water. I worried. 

Today I listened in to a session at work with Matthieu Ricard, the "World's Happiest Man." I tried to follow his meditation exercise at my desk, but I couldn't stop worrying about my breathing. I thought about how I tell my bionic boy, when his ADHD overwhelms every cell in his body, to take a deep breath and he looks at me like, "mom, you really think that's going to help?" and I make him do it anyway. I even do it with him, trying to model deep breathing. 

Holding my breath is more than deep breathing: it's ultimate mindfulness, forcing to a halt my body's automation. Being still and not even letting the ebb and flow of air in my lungs distract me. It is ultimate focus. And it can only be temporary...until it's not. 

I used to have contests with my sister in my grandma's pool to see how long we could stay underwater. Sometimes we would race to see how far the length of the pool and back we could swim without coming up for air. Sometimes we would sink to the bottom and be still, feeling the burn in our lungs as air ran out until we finally pushed to the surface. I always won. Now I find out every one of those contests was inviting sudden death. I not only could hold my breath the longest, but I could also out swim the Grim Reaper. 

I think maybe all of this holding my breath I've been doing will not lead to sudden under water death but slow, above water tempting of fate. 

How do you practice NOT holding your breath? Isn't that just...breathing? 

I am thinking that instead of holding my breath with each challenge that, like lamaze for life, the important thing is to feel everything and still breathe through it. Maybe that is mindfulness. Maybe it's intention. I think it's better to not hold your breath.