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My Toolbelt

I often think about my ability to survive my life. We all have our stories. A survivor is someone who copes with a bad situation or affliction, problem solving while managing to live through the difficulty. It’s never easy. The easy part is believing we are alone, and that creates more pain.

Some of us remember a time, others are in it now, all of us are survivors in one way or another. My mind and body hold memories. My heart grows beyond the memories by feeling support, using tools to soothe, and time to adjust, adapt and assimilate a change. I don’t abandon myself any more.

Using my breath has been a crucial tool in my challenging times. I never thought I gasped for a breath when I was triggered by something real or imaginary. Indeed, I do. When I am triggered, I quickly take in air and hold it, which essentially causes more problems because I’m denying my body the crucial air it needs to function. The cascading effect begins the downfall into more panic.

Using square breathing has helped me; a technique taught to me by a therapist years ago. I imagine a square. I breathe in on one edge, hold my breath on the top, breath down on the other edge, and breathe out on the bottom.

This technique has helped me manage anxiety or even an oncoming panic attack while waiting in a grocery line or other public place. Just imagining a square calms me.

Breathe in; hold; breathe out; hold.

This technique is one of eight tools I gathered over the last 40 years living my life with greater ease knowing they are in my back pocket. Another technique to curb oncoming panic is passing a coin or other small object from one hand to the other, with a rhythm that instantaneously calms a rising panic. Both techniques have immediate results.

My tools are the result of my life lessons, the gems I take from the tragedies I endure. I collect them in my proverbial toolbelt. Sometimes I imagine the tools clanging and clanking together as I walk through life.

The belt itself is made up of healthy boundaries, my personal boundaries for taking care of myself, and honoring others in their journey. My discernment has deepened over time.

Years ago, I would overshare, overhelp and deliver ideas to others who weren’t asking because of my excitement in the relief I found in difficult situations. I learned very quickly how unhelpful it is to offer a fix without being asked. Mindful awareness is part of my toolbelt. I demonstrate my tools, not deliver them unwelcomed to others.

We all have our learning curves. We all have our journeys. My life journey unfolds for me as it does for others. I trust with time each of us finds solace through the pain we endure because our hearts yearn to be comforted, included and loved.

The list of stress/anxiety relieving techniques can be found on my website for free here.

Let us turn inward now Feel the rhythm of the breath. In and out, In and out, Find the peace of just being with the flow of the breath. Letting go of yesterday and tomorrow. Feel the restorative power of the peace of this moment. A peace, large enough to open to the concerns and sorrows that trouble us. A stillness, quiet enough to respond to the joys and celebrations that enliven us. There is safety here in the rhythm of the breath. The ebb and flow of life is enacted with each one. Taking in oxygen sustenance, Letting go of carbon dioxide waste. Taking in the fullness of experience Letting go of the residue that wants to cling to us. Cultivate inner peace and inner safety in this sanctuary dedicated to cultivating the Spirit of Life dedicated to being a beacon of love for all beings.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you. That was such a beautiful reading. It was absolutely amazing. I was stunned though I shouldn’t be. It came from such a centered, calm place and it created calmness and centeredness in me just to listen to it. I am in awe. It touched me so much.

  • Besides a squirrel and bird, there is now a chipmunk in the dirt bath on my fire escape. My cat is having a good morning. I’ve had many kitties over the years, and she is the softest I’ve ever had, like velvet. I’m petting her and tracking her respiration because of her lung problems. She was smiling. It all fit together with what you were saying, talking about breathing and calming. So thank you.

  • I want to thank you for the tools you give us. It’s not just some nebulous sharing, but very concrete tools we can take away with us. The square breathing. I really appreciate the concreteness of what you give us, beyond concepts, a way to bring it into our everyday lives.

  • I remember way back when you talked about breathing as if through a straw. I’ve been doing that ever since. It has helped me tremendously. What the whole group does, the wonderful combination of abstract and spiritual with the pragmatic ways to bring it into our daily lives.

  • It’s a good dichotomy if we walk parallel with the tools. It helps with the crap that happens.

  • Great meditation. I had been part of this group last year and then had to take a long break. During that break, I had extreme panic and anxiety. A lot of it I deal with using medication. My support groups help me navigate through tough challenges. I’m still in the thick of it. Being calm connects me to my own strength. When I am up against it, I can forget I am strong enough. The support groups are very important. Therapists and friends are supportive. Sometimes I don’t realize who my friends are until I’m in a crisis. That’s the most calming thing. No matter what, there are people who care and I am fortunate to have found them in life.

  • Thank you for that reading. I want to understand this square breathing. It reminds me how often I forget to breathe. Sometimes I wonder how I am alive since I’m not breathing. This square breathing and passing the coin sound very helpful.

  • Breathing can really help me when I am having trouble sleeping. The whole idea of breathing I often take for granted—there are people who die from suffocation. I almost did during a trauma. When you stop and think that we are our breath, it really is a gift. In the scripture, when God is being described as the breath of life, I think each of us is the breath of life. We breathe together and give life to each other. You are a friend to your friends who have been there for you. All of those geometric ideas come to the center when we are in the circle of life and radiate out to each other.

  • Thank you. Thank you for being here today and hearing this, hearing the words, sharing your words, sharing your energy. It is so valuable. We are buoying each other. It’s a real feeling when we breathe with awareness and mindfulness. This is our toolbelts. We all have our own toolbelts with our own tools. We all add to them, some are dormant, some are active, they are all part of the journey that we are taking. Have a gentle day.

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