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First Step: Breathe In, Second Step: Breathe Out October 25, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Healing Stories, Life, Loss, Love, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, One Hoop, Philosophy, Science, Twin Cities, Vipassana, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“People always call it luck when you’ve acted more sensibly than they have.”

– Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler, born today in 1941, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, grew up in a way that was very different from the way most people reading this grew up. Her family was Quaker and she spent much of her childhood in intentional communities, where people raised their own food, created folk art, and sang traditional music. It wasn’t just the level of community that made life different, it was that every interaction – with herself, the environment, and the world – was different than it was when her family left commune-life. For instance, Anne Tyler was 11 years old before she used a telephone, went to public school, or regularly wore shoes.

Even though I also moved around a lot as a child, my life experiences were very, very different. Some differences could be easily attributed to race and education (one of the motivating factors behind our moves was that my father was earning his PhD), but then you have to explain some of the similarities – like our love of reading and writing, and our habit of observing people in order to tell their stories. If you take a moment to think about it, you too could categorize all many of ways in which you are also different from us…. But, then, what about the similarities.

“Missouri made an exasperated face. ‘You don’t know,’ she told her. ‘You don’t know how it would work out. Bravest thing about people, Miss Joan, is how they go on loving mortal beings after finding out there’s such a thing as dying. Do I have to tell you that?’”


– quoted from The Tin Can Tree by Anne Tyler


“‘Everything,’ his father said, ‘comes down to time in the end – to the passing of time, to changing. Ever thought of that? Anything that makes you happy or sad, isn’t it all based on minutes going by? Isn’t sadness wishing time back again? Even big things – even mourning a death: aren’t you really just wishing to have the time back when that person was alive? Or photos – ever notice old photographs? How wistful they make you feel? … Isn’t it just that time for once is stopped that makes you wistful? If only you could turn it back again, you think. If only you could change this or that, undo what you have done, if only you could roll the minutes the other way, for once.’”


– quoted from Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler


“You wouldn’t question your sanity, because you couldn’t bear to think it wasn’t real. And you certainly wouldn’t demand explanations, or alert anybody nearby, or reach out to touch this person, not even if you’d been feeling that one touch was worth giving up everything for. You would hold your breath. You would keep as still as possible. You would will your loved one not to go away again.”


– quoted from The Beginner’s Goodbye

As different as our circumstances, our appearances, and personalities – and therefore our lives may be – there are certain things we all have in common. We all live and die, love and are loved, experience great wins and great loss. We are also, to paraphrase First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, all in this together – even when we feel alone, isolated, and going through things we can’t imagine anyone else understanding. Yet, here we sit and stand and lie – here we are, struggling together and apart; finding our way together, even though we are apart.

Over the last few days, I spoke to some friends and we reflected on what how we’re getting through our current circumstances and constant changes versus how we were getting things in the middle of March… or the end of May and the beginning of July. Even with all of our differences and distances, we can all chart the highs and lows of what LG and S call the “coronacoaster.” I mentioned that at the beginning – or at what some might refer to as “the end of before” – I was firmly entrenched in the group of people who emotionally wanted bits of before, something familiar. By April, however, my body wanted (and needed) something a little different – but my mind wasn’t completely on board. So, I had to figure out how to compromise and navigate the conflict – just as if my body and mind were an old married couple (or new friends) suddenly finding themselves in lockdown together.

Then there were more changes, more challenges, more conflicts, and more compromises. And, through it all, I did the same thing you did – I kept breathing. What was helpful (and continues to be helpful), above and beyond everything else, was knowing how to breath and being surrounded by people who also were focused on knowing how to breathe. Breath, after all, is life. It’s not enough just to breathe, however, because how we breathe determines how we live.

“‘Breathing lessons – really,’ [Fiona] said, dropping to the floor with a thud. ‘Don’t they reckon I must know how to breathe by now?’”


– quoted from Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler


“‘Oh honey, you’re just lucky they offer such things,’ Maggie told her…. ‘I mean you’re given all these lessons for the unimportant things–piano-playing, typing. You’re given years and years of lessons in how to balance equations, which Lord knows you will never have to do in normal life. But how about parenthood? Or marriage, either, come to think of it. Before you can drive a car you need a state-approved course of instruction, but driving a car is nothing, nothing, compared to living day in and day out with a husband and raising up a new human being.’”


– quoted from Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

There is a whole industry built around teaching people how to breathe when they are giving birth. Certain techniques not only lower stress, and therefore trauma, they can also help everyone in the room stay focused on that task at hand – keeping everyone healthy and whole. Funny thing is, proper breathing techniques in our day-to-day lives also lowers stress; decreases our trauma-sensitivity (which means we may have a better recovery experience, even when the initial trauma is significant); and helps us stay focused on the present moment. Research has shown improper breathing leads to physical and mental fatigue, high blood pressure, brain fog, increase stress levels, and (ironically) poor sleep. Some people eat more when they are stressed, others eat less – but, either way, poor breathing can disrupt digestion: the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and expel waste. All of this leads to poor health – something the ancient yogis, Buddhist, and contemplatives documented long ago.

Patanjali specifically states, in yoga sūtra 1.34 that clarity of the mind comes from focusing on the breath. So, take a moment, to notice your breath. If you are not breathing deeply in and breathing deeply out, consider what you need to relax the tension in your body in order to breathe more fully. I’ll give you a hint: start with your belly, your fingers, and your toes… as you breathe through your nose.

“She thought of how she had kept at Fiona, whom pregnancy had turned lackadaisical and vague, so that if it hadn’t been for Maggie she’d have spent her entire third trimester on the coach in front of the TV. Maggie would clap her hands briskly – ‘Okay!’ – and snap off the Love Boat rerun and fling open the curtains, letting sunshine flood the dim air of the living room and the turmoil of rock magazines and Fresca bottles. ‘Time for your pelvic squats!’ she would cry….”


– quoted from Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, October 25th) at 2:30 PM. I am in the process of updating the links from the “Class Schedules” calendar; however, the Meeting IDs in the calendar are the same and are correct. PLEASE NOTE: Zoom 5.0 is in effect. If you have not upgraded, you will need to give yourself extra time to log into Zoom. You can always request an audio recording of this practice (or any practice) via email or a comment below.

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “07192020 Compassion & Peace (J’Accuse!)”]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)



1. hsnowflake - October 25, 2020

It’s wonderful to see you’re so inspired to write!! I’m not good at keeping up… but like to see it anyway. I hope my email landed ok with you?

Snowing and growing in Minneapolis, Holly


ajoyfulpractice - October 26, 2020

Yes, it was great! I might owe you a response, lol. We all have ways we are “not good at keeping up….” Peace to you, my friend and teacher.

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