Tag Archives: Moving

On Breathing

Inhale.

The point of yoga is to let the breath move the body. The idea is to move the body in whatever way feels right as long as the body is guided by the breath. You can remain with what is comfortable and easy. You can find the space between discomfort and pain. You can reach into that space as far as your breath will let you, and then you can breathe more deeply and reach farther. Find the space.

Exhale.

The latter is what I try to do when I practice yoga, which I have been doing with some regularity for over seven years. It’s very important to understand that yoga is always a practice. Much of life is always a practice. When I learned this about compassion, living became easier and slowly began to make more sense. It became easier to accept and forgive, both others and myself.

Inhale.

The lack of an expert, model, or end goal makes yoga not only a practice of watching myself breathe, but also a reminder that we live our lives mostly in beginnings and middles. There is so much that is new to explore, so many paths to wander down. There are some ends, but those ends create beginnings.

Exhale.

We live in spaces where we’re trying as hard as we can do the best that we can. In Alain de Botton’s words, we’re all fragile. I’ve quoted him many times before but it never hurts to revist his words:

My view of human nature is that all of us are just holding it together in various ways – and that’s okay, and we just need to go easy with one another, knowing that we’re all these incredibly fragile beings.

Inhale.

I’ve spent the last month at home in Rochester with my family and I’m getting ready to leave. Truthfully, though, I’m never ready to leave. But the time comes.

Exhale.

And I leave.

Inhale.

I’ve cried in more airports than I can remember and on more airplanes. I’ve gone through security without looking back and I’ve jumped up and down trying to catch one more glimpse. I’ve looked back to see others waving and I’ve looked back to see others walking away. I’ve watched people try to smile through tears; I’ve tried to do the same. I’ve found myself unable to cry when others do, which almost never happens in daily life, and I’ve collapsed just when I thought I had it all together.

Exhale.

I’ve since learned that there’s no such thing as having it all together.

Inhale.

I was lucky this summer to spend time in Toronto and Montreal with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and one of my cousins. We don’t see each other very often and time is on my mind. It’s stunning what changes in a year.

Exhale.

This summer has been a very happy time and breathing has been easy. Last week’s yoga class was the best one I’ve had in a long time because the breath moved the body. The breath guided the body. I felt and I also observed.

Inhale.

It’s not always so easy to breathe slowly and deliberately in the fast-paced, complex, often confusing world that we have created. But it’s so important to also create the space that allows for easy breathing.

Exhale.

Nearly a year ago I realized that I was looking for quiet. It’s amazing how much better life has been since I started learning balance and equanimity.

Inhale.

So while I will cry in an airport later this week, and maybe also on a plane, I will try to find that space between discomfort and pain. I will spend some time there between discomfort at returning to reality, which can be jarring, and pain at leaving my family. It’s okay to recognize both and choose to engage with neither.

Exhale.

And then when I’m ready, when I’m able to breathe more deeply, I can reach farther and play with the space around me. There’s much to discover and much to love and it’s open to me as long as I remain open to it.

Inhale.

And I will practice remembering to breathe.

Exhale.

Back to the Beginning

I left Singapore's Changi Airport this morning after 32.5 hours of travel. Half an hour later, I arrived at the hotel where I'll be staying for a couple days and took a shower in the pool locker room because my room wasn't ready. My primary objective for the afternoon was to stay outside as much as possible in order to keep myself awake and to let natural melatonin do its thing.

Immediately upon leaving the airport, I realized a year away means a lot in terms of memory. For example, I'd forgotten that they drive on the left side of the road here, a legacy of British colonialism. I forgot that no one knows how to walk in a straight line, that people actually wait for the crosswalk light to change before crossing the street, and that escalators are for standing (strictly on the left, of course). Additionally, I forgot that you tap your subway card on the way in and on the way out to calculate the fare and I forgot the subway map altogether.

So many people smoke cigarettes, which I'd also forgotten, and it's gross. And yet, I knew exactly where to find the closest money changer and where to get a new SIM card. I remembered the location of certain stores in a mall I used to frequent and was able to recognize new ones.

It's weird that I was gone for a year . . . and it's weird that I was gone for only a year.

I felt somewhat similarly in Rochester this summer. There were certain things about driving around town that I'd just forgotten. I'd forgotten how certain neighborhoods blend into each other and the names of different streets that I used to know. It's unsettling that after spending so much of my life in that one place, a lot of it was gone, replaced by new pertinent information like all the local and express stops on the 4, 5, 6 trains in New York.

I expect that it's going to be the same in Singapore for a little while. There's definitely some adjusting to do, but it feels good to back.

Thank You Note

Eleven months ago, I wrote a note to a crying stranger in a café, assuring her that her troubles would pass and that she was not alone. You can do it, I wrote.

A week later, I needed a kind stranger to write me a note, promising me that I was not alone, that my troubles would pass, that everything would be okay.

More than a few kind strangers entered my life this year; they grew into kind friends.

I’m at my parents’ house in Rochester, enveloped by a quiet joy, a delight at having my family all together. There’s a warm bubble somewhere just above my heart, noticeable despite a slight constriction in my chest. In a few days, I’ll be getting on a plane with my two checked bags, a carry-on bag, and a backpack to move back to Singapore, a place that I love and still call home. I’m not sleeping well, which must mean I’m nervous.

And just like last time and the time before, it’s bittersweet. I think it always will be.

Before I go, I want to thank everyone who has supported me through a year fraught with personal challenges. With their support, I learned a lot about myself, confronted some demons I didn’t know I had, and gained a sense of what I want and what I’m looking for.

So, I want to say thank you.

To the friend who sat with me for hours to find an apartment, figure out the next steps, and forced me to literally get up, get dressed, and get out;

to the friend who let me be sad and supplied me with wine and cheese to help the sadness go down a little easier;

to the friend who held me when “New York City” by The Chainsmokers filled the LA Convention Center;

to everyone who told me to talk to a therapist and to my roommate who gave me the last push in that direction;

to the therapist who let me talk and assured me that that I’m doing okay at this thing called life and that I’m allowed to listen to myself;

to the friends who called on Skype and over the phone to remind me that they may be far away, but they’re here;

to the colleagues who put a smile on my face every single day, made me look forward to coming to work, became my friends and confidants, taught me about resilience and overcoming adversity, and gave me the safest, most nurturing place to be when I had nowhere else to go;

to the students whose questions pushed me to rethink schools, education, and my plans for the future;

to the UES carpool squad who became my reason for getting out of bed nearly every day for the first few months of school and for friendship, political solidarity, and Starbucks Fridays;

to my sister and brother who checked in on me, came to visit, and reminded me that my “built-in friends” are really never going anywhere;

to my parents who showed me the world;

thank you.

Thank you all so much.

Love,

Rebecca Michelle