Roller Coaster Breathing

When I was a teenager and started to ride roller coasters, I realized I didn’t like the feeling of that stomach leap that happens just over the crest of the big hills.  After a few drops, I discovered that if I breathed in as deeply as possible instead of screaming or holding my breath, it kind of held my internal organs in place and relieved the intensity of the dropping feeling.  It was a great trick that really helped me enjoy the rest of the amusement park rides.

The last year or so, my husband and I have been the emotional roller coaster of a nationwide job search which involved us being separated for almost six months (down), discovering a new place (up), leaving friends and places I have known for nearly my entire life (down), and being close to very special extended family for the first time (up), and so on…  The feelings were an intense mix that kept me up many nights.  It was a blend of deep uncertainty, sadness, anxiety, eagerness, and curiosity.  It was neither good nor bad all together, but a composition of a wide range of emotions.

The last night I spent in Indiana, my friend Ruth who gave me a comforting and beautiful home during the transition asked what she could do to help me.  I said, “Meditate with me.”  So we did. It was daunting, to sit in silence with the waves of all those emotions so poignantly present, knowing that the next morning I would leave the only place I have called home, and would finally be with my husband again after a long separation.  I needed a little  back-up so we used the Tara Brach “Opening and Calming” guided meditation on you-tube.  At one point we switched from being aware of body sensations to watching whatever came to mind and heart and just being with it.  Instead of trying to return to a mantra or making the feelings clouds that float away, exercises of non-attachment, Tara instructed us to be fully present with what surfaced.  It felt like there was not enough room for the depth and breadth of some of the emotions and physical sensations, or for trying to accommodate them into and through my body and awareness.  I felt like I would explode, or start crying and never stop.  Months of semi-mitigated stress and not yet grieved goodbyes, several major disappointments, and a final precipice of relief were undulating through me.  I was on the roller coaster.

With Tara’s invitation not to move around those feelings, but through them,  I BREATHED With and Into them.  I breathed again.  The sinking feelings of the drops was actually manageable.  It became safe to enter more fully into the course of reality again.  After we finished this session  I thought to myself, that if only I could remember that sensation of Relief through Breath the next time something really gut wrenching occurred, how Empowering it would be.  But I know now that it will continue to take much practice.  Breathing and staying, and Loving Into What Is…

Peace to you wherever you are at this moment…

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