Everyday some part of me calls my attention and has the potential to carry me down some road away from my centered self. I wouldn’t mind but for the fact that I feel better whole, not parceled out or divided up. It seems that I can lean into the day with my head, my hands or perhaps with a body part that is sore or hurting. At other times it can be the part of me that contains the story of feeling tired or overwhelmed or riding a wave of solid and secure. There are definitely days where I am all about where I’m going or what I have to do next. And, of course, there are other days where the weight of yesterday or even a lingering dream from the night before is what takes up space in the bigger part of me.
Rilke, in the Duino Elegies, writes that “We live our lives, for ever taking leave.” He may have been talking about situations or places, but do we not take leave of ourselves many times in the course of our daily living? It’s not simply that we are distracted; we are actually living outside of the corporeal self that supports us through this lifetime. Our awareness is elsewhere often far from the here and now, with the sense of looking past or through this physical body. Mostly we believe that this is how we are supposed to function.
How might is be to lean into the day from an anchored point – a breath and body awareness? We are often reminded to go back to the breath and that can certainly serve as an anchor for awareness. However, breath is in the body; the whole process of breathing occurs in the body. It’s not something that happens outside of our physical selves but requires movement and involves the whole body. While we may think of breathing as pertaining only to the pathway in and out with a brief pause in between, it is our entire embodied self that is being breathed.
A friend and colleague of mine has been known to suggest that students practice “receiving” a breath instead of “taking” one. This is an offering that can change the posture of breathing so that it becomes more of a whole body experience. In the moment of whole body breathing is an opportunity to pause and shift attention away from whatever part is dominating and drop into a more centered stance. Even if the shift doesn’t last very long, the fact that you’ve experienced it can be enough to bring a different energy to that part of you demanding attention. And, in this way, you have already taken another step in the direction of living your life from the point of wholeness.