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Momentary Peace:  Breathing Through Pain


Momentary Peace: Breathing Through Pain

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.

Kary Schumpert
Guest Blogger
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



Healing in Orlando

In the numbness that follows a tragedy we are often heard to repeat cliches that help us wrap our heads around the inconceivable. Whether it’s the misfortune or loss of a loved one, or something on a grander and uglier scale, we will be heard to say “everything happens for a reason” clutching to the belief that an invisible future explanation will present itself and ease the current pain.

I never subscribed to that Pollyanna-ish interpretation. Long before I read the Hermetica, Gnostic texts, Rudolph Steiner, or Neville, I felt instinctively, even though I didn’t like the feeling, that something was backward. It’s not some future revelation that we must look to. It’s the past and the present that hold the answer; the reason.

And the reason is us.

None of us want to hear it or look at it. But that doesn’t change the fact that each of us, however remotely, is fractionally culpable. Let me explain: If one human can become so completely out of alignment with the human family, then it can happen to any one of us. We are all equally capable, if not all likely, to become a beast or a saint. Until we recognize this, we’re not spiritually or emotionally mature. We have to ask, daily, “What’s going on inside of me? What’s happening on an energetic level? Where and how am I contributing to love or hate?” For however small or insignificant we think our intention, it contributes none the less. And one contribution (of energy) builds upon another, and so on. Looking at this squarely is how we heal.

The world’s spiritual leaders & guides have all known this. They’ve all faced conditions of adversity,  or of doubt, sometimes even atrocity. They overcame not just with the tools of prayer and meditation, but through Practice. They were able to carry on because they constantly and consistently put into action what they realized through meditation and contemplation. This is Practice. We overcome, heal, and change through Practice.

Meditation is not for escape or just to feel better at the end of your day. Of what use is contemplation and meditation if the result is only Nihilism or narcissism? The value is not in retreat, disengagement, or disconnection. The value is that it gives us the strength to engage fully, humanly, and spiritually while keeping centered, keeping ‘in love’ by remaining in the field of true knowing and compassion with detachment. That is the Practice. In this way we can say “yes, I will participate in the debate, but I do so from love, from recognition of myself in the other.”

We have to come from a place of oneness – even, and perhaps most critically, when in pain, in opposition, and when engaging in activism. If we’re not coming from a grounded centered place, we’re only contributing to the problem even with the best of (mental) intention. But it’s the intention and purity of our hearts, not our minds, that the Universe hears. The intention of our heart has to come from recognizing the shadow, from identifying with the beast in each of us and embracing it, understanding it, no matter how repulsive. Only then can we intend, not just what we want, but what is truly for the highest good, trusting that the intelligence that surrounds us will work in concert with that intention. For it will. Whether it’s noble or base, the Universe will only say ‘yes’ to our pure intention.

In the wake of tragedy, when we are in pain, this can be a very daunting task. But it is precisely at this time that we should turn not to magical thinking, but to practical tools (the difference between New Age and New Thought). Tools that we may not completely understand (like electricity or gravity) but that we know from experience will sustain us. What use is being able to still our minds for 10 breaths unless it teaches us how to be love in the world? Can you argue for your point of view impersonally and without anger? Can you argue from your heart center without hating the person opposing you? Can we forgive the most heinous of acts?

That is the Practice. The practice of meditation or other contemplative exercise is to prepare us to go into the world as lovers and fighters; as those who realize our connection with all that is. We can go into the world and fight from the heart center for what we believe is the highest good without hating the person who is opposing our view when we Practice. To remain connected to one another in the most trying, the most frightening of times is our test. And times will continue to be trying for as long as we provide a reason, for as long as we indulge in thoughts unguarded.

So in my own small part – which turns out is not small at all – I will strive to be ever so diligent in my every thought and deed. I will strive to keep my intentions kind. I will not add the energy of hate or separation in any degree to the world. Not in reaction to daily trivial upsets or to the most grandly horrific of events. I will not always succeed. In fact, I flub it several times a day. But I do, and will continue to, constantly practice. This is my response to this tragedy. This is my commitment to my human family.

Dawn Murphy is the author of "Physical Stuff & Mental Junk: A Minimalist Path to True Abundance." Her work has been been endorsed by Dr. Will Tuttle, author of "The World Peace Diet,"  Phil Borges, Ph.D of Bridges to Understanding, and Dr. Howard Zinn. She’s currently working on her fourth book, "So Vegan Easy" available in 2017. Visit her Blog/Website: