Momentary Peace: Breathing Through Pain
By Kary Schumpert
I am grieving the loss of my dad.
This grief is a bit of a surprise. I didn’t know that I would feel like a I hit a brick wall, over and over again. In the last three months since his death, I haven’t slept. I haven’t been able to read a book, and I usually read one or two in a week. I have had faulty judgement. I have made some bad decisions. I have been walking in a fuzzy, cloudy, fog, which is a bit ironic, since I live in sunny, bright Albuquerque.
They say grief can be unexpected and surprising. Yes, I concur. There is pain and I can see how people can get lost in it. How can we honor our grief and our pain, but not get lost? How can we face our feelings, and yet not wallow? A moment of clarity struck the other day, while I was running.
I love running and recently joined a running group, because I thought I could use some companionship in an activity that I usually do solo. While my mind spins, I need exercise to feel right again. Right now, casual companionship feels wonderful, because I feel most alone.
Monday night, we met at the track and divided up into smaller groups, based upon our goals for the evening. Some were running/walking. Some were walking. I placed myself in the running group. That night’s run was three miles. I started out by myself in the middle of the group, but running solo. The group coach and another woman were slightly ahead of me. They slowed down to my pace and we all ran together. Their conversation resumed and then I joined in. In running, a good way to measure your pace and ease is to see if you can talk while running. I was a bit winded, so we slowed down a bit more and I took a breath.
It was in that moment, the gap in conversation that I realized all I need to do is breathe. Sometimes, it’s harder, while running uphill or running at a faster pace. Sometimes, in the middle of a busy day at work, it can be tricky, but taking a moment to breathe deeply can bring peace.
Why is it that it took a routine run to remind me of something so basic? Lately, it has been all about breathing. I am a newbie to yoga and as I move my way through the poses in a class, I breathe and move into the next pose. On a day when I feel cloudy and confounded by grief, I take a breath and count to 10. In a moment in the car, on the drive home, when a lane is closed and a car rushes in front of me, I am surprised by my anger. Usually, things like that don’t bother me. Then I take a deep breath and make room for that car, plus one more.
One day at the gym, while swimming laps, I felt the effort seemed much more difficult. I then realized my timing and breath were off. If I open my mouth and breathe out in a spurt of bubbles, I don’t take such big gasps when I turn my head up out of the pool.
Breathing helps me in my stumbling meditation practice. When I feel blocked and upset and don’t know which way to move, I realize all I can do is breathe. I will move and breathe myself through this. I will take moment by moment: up the hills, through the shadows of grief, until I find my way back. I fill the void with a breath, sometimes a gasp.
I will breathe until I sleep, until I read again, until I find myself again. I will breathe. Eventually, I will let go of the pain. For now, though, it reminds me to breathe.
New Leaf Meditation Project
Kary Schumpert is an environmental educator and writer living in New Mexico. She loves running, hiking, camping, reading, teaching, writing, and exploring spirituality. Her writing has been published in Elephant Journal, Green Teacher, and Community Works Journal. She keeps a blog at runningintolife.wordpress.com.