Breathe Into It

Updated: Jun 29

I want to slam things down and make noise because of the pain in my heart. It’s easier to disrupt quiet instead of express my sadness. Too many people around me are suffering with terminal illnesses, incorrigible situations, challenging struggles. I feel hopeless and helpless.

I worry I’m next. My spouse is next. A family member is next. My friend is next. Racing thoughts abound. We are all seasoned with fear after Covid. We are all seasoned because life is hard.

Then I’m reminded of more. I raise my view to a treetop level. There’s more here than suffering people. I see spiritual beings in human bodies breaking open and discovering they are more than their illness. Yes, there is pain and suffering. Yes, life is not easy. Who am I to judge their breaking open experience? Who am I to wish them ease instead of an opportunity to the inner gems from their current life experience? Who am I to wish away their dis-ease when it may very well lead them to ease?

I’m remembering a time when I was suffering from intense muscle spasms and deep, biting pain, a healer pressed into the spasm and asked me to breathe—breathe into the pain, stay steady with my focus and blow out slowly. I experienced the spasm easing its grip. Instead of denying the pain, I went into it, breathe through it and out again until ease happened.

I focus on the higher understanding of breaking open and ease through it. There’s so much more happening on so many levels than the human level.

It takes courage to feel pain in myself and in others. Breathing through denial allows me to be fully present for myself and for others around me. Life is full of change. Life is full of transition, every day breaking down and building up.

Breaking open is a righting of imbalance. Breaking open is ascension. Breaking open leads to clarity. Breaking open is the storm that leads to clear skies.

An excerpt from

for a friend, on the arrival of illness by John O'Donohue When the reverberations of shock subside in you,

May grace come to restore you to balance.

May it shape a new space in your heart

to embrace this illness as a teacher

who has come to open your life to new worlds.

May you find in yourself

a courageous hospitality

towards what is difficult,

painful and unknown.

May you use this illness

as a lantern to illuminate

the new qualities that will emerge in you.

May the fragile harvesting of this slow light

help you to release whatever has become false in you.

May you trust this light to clear a path

through all the fog of old unease and anxiety

until you feel arising within you a tranquility

profound enough to call the storm to stillness.

May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:

Ask it why it came? Why it chose your friendship?

Where it wants to take you? What it wants you to know?

What quality of space it wants to create in you?

What you need to learn to become more fully yourself

that your presence may shine in the world.

May you keep faith with your body,

learning to see it as a holy sanctuary

which can bring this night-wound gradually

towards the healing and freedom of dawn.

May you be granted the courage and vision

to work through passivity and self-pity,

to see the beauty you can harvest

from the riches of this dark invitation.

May you learn to receive it graciously,

and promise to learn swiftly

that it may leave you newborn,

willing to dedicate your time to birth.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you very much for this. With my hand wrapped up after surgery, I’ve learned to ask for help. I don’t usually do that. Your reading made me think of an article in the New York Times this morning (accessible here from CBS News) about a high school valedictorian sharing his pain in a powerful story about being broken open and about walking the walk. It’s not an easy thing to talk about.

  • Thank you. Your question ‘who am I to try and take away their pain and dis-ease.’ I have been rewatching the Korean drama It’s Okay to Not be Okay. I learned the butterfly hug from that, which is a way for PTSD patients to self-soothe. In this drama, the main character draws very dark fairy tales. In the first one, a boy can’t sleep because he has nightmares. A witch takes away the memory of the nightmares in exchange for his soul. He no longer has nightmares but he is not happy. It’s because without the memory of our nightmares, we stay children. We don’t grow, we don’t learn flexibility. There’s truth in that for me. But I struggle with feeling like a fly caught in a spiderweb of disease and I can’t move and make a choice. Where is the tipping point that individuals have where they can’t deal with it anymore? I need to resolve this, resolve the feelings around my mom because I was a mean person yesterday and I didn’t like myself. Either I dislike myself because I’m not what she wants me to be or I dislike myself because I’m selling my soul. I feel caught. A clue is to love myself more, but where is that tipping point? I was thinking if I don’t do something, I’ll make myself sick because that’s where disease starts, holding things in our bodies.

  • Your pain has gotten your attention. That in itself is a tipping point. How much pain are you willing to put up with? Some people can put up with a lot of pain until it becomes catastrophic. We have these opportunities that give us reasons to learn and they aren’t fun.