My horoscope from Rob Breszney today for this week:
It has been too long since you visited the Middle of Nowhere. You've been a fixture in the heart of a well-defined Somewhere for quite some time. But now, Taurus, you need the enriching confusion of the Cosmic HUH?! it's prime time for you to wander out into the fertile chaos of the WHAT THE HELL!? zone. Have fun! Don't forget to writhe! Now please repeat and repeat and repeat after me, slowly building from a smirking giggle to a cackling belly-laugh: WHERE AM I AND HOW DID I GET HERE?!
What I wrote a couple days ago, it's self indulgent and long...
Breath has been central to my life for a long time. Sounds silly, right? We all breathe, Susie, it’s central to all our lives. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t be reading your blog…which you write because you can breathe. Well, Reader, that’s a pretty cyclical argument, don’t you think ☺
Well, it has been central, regardless of your obvious critiques! It started out because of a wound I’d sustained/inflicted upon myself and now it’s central to keeping myself centered in this chaotic world and staying grounded and connected to my God continuously.
It all started in choir auditions in 7th grade. I’d been in choir in 6th, but then it became more competitive, and later I realized that getting into the right choir had some correspondence with Ivy League school attendance. Who knew all those cheesy names just made for good resume fodder? Anywho, I was singing for Mr. Larson and he asked me to sustain a note. I didn’t hear it, but there were cracks in my voice. Not like a pubescent boy, but little clicks. He told me to go to an ENT or something like that and have my larynx checked for vocal nodules. Sure as shit, I had em. For those of you who like my raspy voice after a late night out or a political rally, you can thank the calluses on my vocal cords. Not nearly as sexy now, right kids?
I remember my fist meeting with Jennifer, my voice coach. I had to buy a leotard prior to our appointment so that she could see my stomach when I spoke. Jennifer was the first one who I remember, who tried to teach me how to breathe.
“From your belly! Make your belly go out when you breathe in and in when you breathe out!” the leotard took any chance at disguise away, and I had to let my belly out. (Years later I realize that already at 12 years old I was concerned about having a flat stomach. No big surprise there, just disappointment in a society that may have let corsets go, but not the ideal. Keep ‘em skinny and barely breathing. I still jeopardize my breathing to keep a flat stomach appearance. Who do I think I’m kidding?! Oh, and I’m grateful for Spanks. The new crotchless corset.)
Jennifer became one of my few foes in my adolescent life. I hated our meetings, although I knew she was there to help me learn to use my voice correctly, which meant learning how to breathe. I didn’t want her airy, cheesy voice, though. Nor did I want to have a clicker to count how many times I started to talk with a glottal pop; or to keep a rubber band on the tip of my tongue to remind myself NOT to talk. (“I don’t care if you yell, just do it right!”) I had to give a presentation to all the Ivy hopefuls in all the choirs in lieu of singing…cause choir was bad for my voice!
I went to New Zealand in 2001 to study abroad. It was amazing in so many ways. The country itself kicked ass: the people, the vibe, the Maori and their traditions and…jewelery! I met great friends who I remain close to today. I think of them often.
Breathing took me to new levels, or I took breathing to new levels in my life, in NZed, as I’ll call it from here on out. I met Graca and Brendan and we had a hell of a time together. (God we laughed HARD!) Then Elinor came on the scene. I don’t remember who met her first or how we all met, but Graca who studied Business Administration at the University of Denver and Elinor who studied theology at Georgetown University became my closest girl friends. We had so much fun together and Elinor, being the go getter she is, started a yoga class in our dorms. Graca and I, both in need of a physical outlet, glommed onto the activity. As the days passed it became clear that Elinor knew what she was doing and was passionate about it.
Fast forward a few weeks. I’d gone to Australia to see my friend Jake in Sydney and Cris in Brisbane. I flew to the South Island of NZed to meet up with my boyfriend at the time, Brendan, and a bunch of other kids. They all had flights back, I had a massive bus trip. I don’t mind bus trips or train trips. I love seeing the world from a window, zooming by, close to my eyes.
I was on the ferry between, what is the town’s name? Wellington and some town on the North Island, reading my book. I saw Elinor, Blair and Eugene on the ferry and was pretty stoked that I wouldn’t be traversing the water alone. Blair (DC) and Eugene (Singapore) found a bar, which they were exceptional at (both finding bars and drinking), and Elinor and I retired to the stern of the boat, doing some yoga and talking about our families at home. At the end of the ride, El extended the invitation to ride with them north. As much as I love trains and buses, I prefer cars. Especially the vehicle I was riding in: the Rasta Van. I’ll see if El as a picture of the gem.
This is getting self indulgent, so do what you will, but I’m going to keep writing.
The boys had a few beers on the boat. Maybe in the van, too. So El and I took the driver’s seats and drove us home. How it came up, I’m not sure. Maybe Elinor just asked me what I thought of God. I went into my beliefs about the universe, interconnectedness and the goodness of people and things. Yada yada yada. We talked through the night, peed on the side of the road and talked about God.
We got home and finally went to sleep. When I saw Elinor the next day she handed me Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsh. Some of the beginning bits were hard to follow…tedious. But the meat of it? I devoured. And became a vegetarian. And read the next three books that followed, well, Book 1.
Elinor became the unsuspecting yogi I didn’t know I was looking for. She’s (so far) not an official yogi (are you, El?), but she was mine. She got me on a path I can’t foresee getting off and, for that, she earns the distinction of being my first God friend. Get it? Like God parent…ugh…tough crowd tonight folks!
Breathing became a central part of my spiritual exploration. Between yoga and meditation, I was breathing so well and fully my life changed. I became conscious; began living more intentionally and presently and really loved it. Since there’s always been an element of this existence, albeit not constant, present and, goodness, it’s lovely. Elinor had been cavorting with some nuns and monks down the road and she introduced Graca and me to them.
This is where I received my mantra. I sat with a Didi and we talked and she told me how to focus and left me with the mantra I still use. Which she told me not to tell anyone. So I won’t start now!
I’m grateful that I can calm myself with three deep breaths and put myself to sleep with ten.
Breathing is coming up again now with my grandmother’s health. Sometimes her oxygen saturation levels are lower than desired, so the visiting nurse suggested some breathing exercises. They also suggested the same exercises for pain management (which I institute in my life now, giving me great hopes for my own pain management when I’m 83, which I hope I am one day). So we sat on the edge of the sofa today, hands on waists, breathing. I became Jennifer and we practiced breathing. I got dizzy and she started yawning! What a pair we are!
Yup. That’s the grand finale. I love breathing. And I’m newly recommitted to getting healthy so that when I’m 83 I can eat bacon and not worry about a heart attack. I would like this to include these activities: Tai Chi, Yoga, belly dancing, Salsa and maybe modern dance. And basketball.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to comment on the amazing stars that hang so low in the sky up here. I love the mountains. I love the big sky.
There’s part of me that can’t wait for the opportunity to go skiing when I want to. And the other part that says, if you want to, you need to. You only live once and some day you’ll be 83 and yawning from breathing.