In yoga class we are taught to hold one hand on our heart and one on our belly and breathe in and out, inhale and exhale, and the longer the exale the better, as it relaxes the nervous system. I’ve been doing the breathing part ever since I was recovering from being runover by a truck and learned about the vagus nerve. I was walking by myself out at the fairgrounds about a year and a half after the accident, and had this moment of terrible pain, suddenly, that felt just like my pelvis was breaking again — and then I fell down, in fear, and thought I might faint, then I crawled to my car and drove, barely, right to Dr. Feldman’s office and told him I thought I was having a heart attack, or a blood clot or a nerve had come unplugged (you can tell I have zero medical training) and he talked me down from the panic, and had me breathe into a bag, and the scare passed, but I learned that the fear could have killed me, and that the vagas nerve connection to emotions and the body is not something to mess with.
I also learned that I can hold two opposite feelings in my brain at the same time. I can understand that I’m overeacting to a fright and be able to counter it by being very still, holding my belly and my heart, and breathing in deeply and long and most importantly, exaling even longer. That calms my vagas nervousness. It is possible to be both scared and hurt, and yet brave enough to take action to help myself. I think this is important for you to know right now. (Not that you are nearly as wiggy as I am these days, I’m sure.)
It’s not like this kind of big stuff happens everyday, or even once a week. These life saving moments are few and far between (thank goodness).
What I started to tell you, is that in Zoom yoga on Sunday the intention was kindness: being kind, doing kind things, thinking kind thoughts. Great advice. Then, in Zoom church, St. Paul reminded us to “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor,” and what’s not to love about that? These are your marching orders.
So, there I was this morning, trying to find that same goodness and purpose, and hoping not to wake up to the news and lose it. I stayed in bed a little longer (it was really stormy with gusts so strong the house shuddered) and I placed one hand on my heart and another on my belly, breathing in those good suggestions for the day and week ahead, and then trying to have no thoughts. (This is important, apparently, to settle the mind.) To do this, I have been taught to recognize the interuption and to watch it wander off- to say so long, have a nice day, and then return to my breath.
That’s what I should do, but this is what I really do: I see that poor thought wobbling away into the storm all by itself and think, does it have enough to eat? A water bottle? (Have I drank enough water today? 1/2 my body weight in ounces. Do I really want to weigh myself? )– and speaking of hydration– does it have a rain coat? An extra, dry shirt made of materials that will still be warm when wet? A mask? Bear spray? Head lamp? (It’s so dark now) Gin?– No! It’s morning. Coffee, yes, coffee with cream and a dog walk. The rain has stopped, for now.
(Come with me, this will make you feel better about everything, I promise.)