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Three Breaths, One Commitment

365 days ago, I made a commitment to myself. Every morning, I would sit in silence. I missed community. Awareness of the pandemic was rapidly rising and warnings of isolation were becoming more and more frequent.

I struggled with meditation for years often finding more success when I was with others. There is a buoying effect and it’s easier to sit quietly when surrounded by other meditators. So began my Zoom meditation journey.

I have found a home in my silence. Sometimes this home is loud and chaotic and I can’t sit still. I travel to places of amazing comfort and ease. Other times I am gazing out the window wondering what’s next. It’s all part of being home.

Einstein is quoted as saying, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” What we believe is the filter we see through, live through, exist in.

Terrible things happen to good people. I know. They’ve happened to me and to my loved ones. I can play the blame game, point fingers and accuse others of the harm they inflicted on me or my loved ones. Exacting revenge seems to make sense when my pain is screaming. And, in the end, my comfort all comes down to acceptance of the situation so I can be present to do my best to help me and help my loved ones. All the rest is a distraction.

As a child raised in a dysfunctional home, I never had a positive role model. My mode of existence was reacting to the crap going on around me played out by all the wounded humans in my life. The first time I received a compliment with no strings attached was from a high school teacher about my keyboard ability. Once married and my first child was born, she was perfect and life seemed to be what it was supposed to be. My second daughter, born with terminal liver disease, broke me open.

I was a victimized broken mother raising a healthy daughter and my dying baby. I was a victim getting a divorce. Friends and family felt sorry for me. I was living in terrible circumstances. Sympathy didn’t help me feel better. Sympathy helped me feel sorry for myself and it pissed me off. There had to be more.

I made a commitment when I started psychotherapy 35 years ago. I wanted help and I decreed to my therapist I wasn’t interested in being placated while talking about my problems. I wanted to face my emotions head on and turn over the rocks they were hidden under. I meant business. I spent over 30 years in therapy.

I was stuck in a victim belief system viewing life through the lens of my childhood. With my commitment, I made a fundamental change. Sure, I got caught up in the positive thinking craze, repeating over and over life is good, but it didn’t really work when I had a suffering innocent child at home and no easy answers to help. What did stick with me was my curiosity to look closely at my relationship with the Universe.

I watched a video last night by Marci Shimoff, a renowned author in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She cited Einstein again as saying “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

If you believe that the universe is on your side and everything that’s happening to you is happening actually for a reason, that it’s there to support you, if what is happening to you is happening for a higher purpose, what would you learn from it? What would that purpose be?

Many people believe all they need in life is to have success with money and things and then everything would fall into place. A person can have everything they want in life and still feel empty inside. It doesn’t work that way.

When I raise my happiness level, I feel better inside. When I raise my energy vibration, the whole world around me changes. The success comes from inside first and the rest will follow.

Marci Shimoff teaches an easy exercise to move from the stress response into what science calls the love response in three simple steps.

  1. Put the palm of your hand over your heart. That simple act starts the release of a chemical called oxytocin, the love hormone. You can feel it yourself just by putting the palm of your hand over your heart. It may be subtle at first. Trust the process.

  2. Imagine you’re breathing in and out through the center of your heart. Feel your hand over your heart and the breath is going in and out of your heart.

  3. On each inbreath imagine breathe in love. Breathing in ease. Breathing in compassion. Exhale normally but breathe in ease, love and compassion.

So, I’m making another commitment today. I’ll put a reminder on a postcard because I will forget.

For the first minute of my meditation, I put my hand over my heart and I can do it physically or imagine it in my head. Then I visualize breathing in and out through my heart center. I breathe in love, ease and compassion. Three breaths. One Commitment.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Commitments. I did a lot of thinking about commitments. I so appreciate your commitment to us. It has really manifested in a beautiful flowering of friendships and deep-in-the-heart memories. I really appreciated a phrase you said where you felt you had to see things through the lens of your childhood. I’m in the process of trying to write my own obituary. I want to do it my way. I don’t want my family imposing their religious views on my obituary. Commitment is really a beautiful word and yet it can attach itself to some purposes that are not so good. When we are growing, it’s hard to stay committed to the views of another person’s commitment. In my case, my family’s commitment. They were committed to a religion and to not backsliding. As a kid, I loved to go on a sliding board, but I didn’t understand how one could slide back up the slide. So many things I heard as a child were confusing. Since I’ve joined this group and during the last few years of living alone, I’ve made a commitment to me and to the wisdom I’ve learned. It feels really good. It has changed me inside. Since I’ve been at the beach on vacation, I’ve run into strangers who have told their entire stories to me. It really touched my heart and I let them know that. There is that silent commitment that takes place within us when we approach each day wanting to grow. It has made my life much happier.

  • Thank you. I hear it. I see it.

  • One of my experiences has been—people will tell you what you are ready to receive. Their voices will arrive as a result of whatever is in you that is the receptacle that is able to hold them.

  • It’s so true. When one does service, the people that come to us that we help teach us as well. It’s reciprocating universe.

  • Thank you. This whole reading was rich. It brought back a memory. I was asked to led a choir inside a women’s prison. I was a retired teacher and had experience with homeless people and I played guitar. That was the scariest thing I ever made a commitment to. I told them I’d do it for three months. At the end of that period, I told them it was too much for me and I couldn’t go on. They wanted me to stay and I asked if someone could help me. I did and that lasted for four years. You talk about the gift flowing both ways. The making a commitment allowed me to rise to levels I didn’t know were in me. The power for doing that came from this tapping into the more. It wasn’t just me doing it alone. I also made a lot of changes within my personal life during that time. As a result, that community of women was even more important to me. It was very much a two-way street. It was sad when I had to let it go. The power of community is so real, the mix of strength and gentleness, the mix of acceptance of how you are and the invitation to grow, it’s all just magic.

  • I really appreciate everyone’s sharings. It’s been really rich to listen to these stories. During the reflection, I thought of my commitment to moving to a retirement community. It’s a metaphor for facing a lot of things. We haven’t decided where we’re going to be buried, which funeral home. Things one postpones. What I got in touch with was that I’ve been seeing this move as more for my spouse and realizing how much I’ve denied that this is my choice, for my life. And I am free to change it. It’s been difficult to face it for me. It’s much easier to focus on what seems to be best for my spouse. Downsizing and realizing stuff and things that have been important to me. Like possessions that came from my family. Realizing my kids don’t have that same emotional attachment. All kinds of things. It all came flooding in during the reflection. One’s commitment to oneself in one’s final phase. Not to suggest there is life after, but one doesn’t know. I’m doing what is in front of me.

  • And listening to other’s thoughts.

  • I do want to reflect on what Einstein said. It makes sense to me to focus on the good, but knowing some of what goes on with people and animals in terms of pain. I prefer to focus on something loving. My 15-year-old cat gave me eight kisses. The other night, my other cat wasn’t well and not moving. I made a bed for him in the shower stall, bought him another cushion, and gave him a water bowl. I told the other cat to go tell him she loved him. She went in and nestled on top of him. It was the sweetest thing.

  • Thank you for this incredible year. Sometimes, I look back at the early reflections and blog posts from last March and April. The earliest ones had only the readings. Then I started tapping out on my phone the comments people were saying and we posted those. This has evolved and evolved to where we are recording and transcribing everyone’s reflections. It takes all morning. It’s a commitment and I love it. I’m wondering if I’ve ever committed to doing this much every day for a year. I’ve been in groups and I appreciate what people are saying about being part of a group, the nourishment one gets. This is a whole different level because we are talking from our hearts in an authentic way. I cherish it. Thank you for creating this.

  • I so appreciate the labor of transcribing and putting everything on the blog. One person will say something. It will trigger something in someone. That leads to a further reflection by someone else. We come to inspirations and insights that no one of us could have come up with ourselves. It becomes part of the group memory. Like expectations and expectancy, that’s chiseled in my memory because I had never heard that before. Equal praise to you both for this work.

  • The word nourishment made me picture that all of us as a group is a big beautiful tree. The leaves dropping like our tears that we share. The buds coming out like we are growing. The leaves, the roots, everything.

  • I’ve enjoyed finding pictures for the readings. I was fond of the snail sitting on the duck’s beak yesterday. That gave me pleasure.

  • Thank you for joining us on this incredible journey. We start a new year tomorrow. I’m committed to keep going because this is a spiritual practice that is giving back to me and giving back to you. I say whatever works, keep doing it.

  • In my Womenspirit choir, we don’t sing happy birthday. We sing a song ‘God danced the day you were born.’ I think god danced the day this group was born.

  • May we all leave this meditation feeling the compassion, ease, and love in our hearts and take that with us, remembering that it is all within our control to invite it in. I hope you all have a gentle day and are really proud of being part of something that helps us. We aren’t doing it for someone else, we are doing it for ourselves.

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