(help me remember

how to breathe)

Full Catastrophe Living,  Lesson One:

BREATHE

by heidi juniper

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer…  no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger — something better, pushing right back.”

~albert camus

Darling Ones–

I was working on a long post that included excerpts from Chodron’s Start Where You Are, below, when I got news that turned my life, my world, my very grasp on reality, upside down…

In the space of a few moments… an hour or less… these words, words I’ve worked with for years, felt different to me.  So I re-copied them, and “talked back” to them…  Pema Chodron’s words, as she wrote them (slightly, respectfully edited) are directly below.  Following that, is my response–(I “talk back” in blue font).

The phrase “Full Catastrophe Living”, used in the title of this piece, is borrowed from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book of the same name.  (Which is about using mindfulness, and the body’s resourcefulness, to cope with stress & stay sane.)

Love And Blessings–May the resilience and wisdom of our Grandmothers, and all the Ones Before them, going back the many generations, Guide us in these Difficult Times.  ~Heidi

No Escape, No Problem

“We already have everything we need.

There is no need for self-improvement.  All these trips we lay on ourselves… fearing we’re bad… hoping we’re good…never touch our basic wealth.  They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun.  All the time our warmth and brilliance are right here.

This is who we really are.

We are one blink of an eye from being fully awake.

Looking at ourselves this way is very different from our usual habit.  From this perspective we don’t need to change:  you can feel as wretched as you like… you’re still a good candidate for enlightenment.

You can feel like the world’s most hopeless basket case, but that feeling is your wealth.

There’s a richness to all of the smelly stuff that we so dislike and so little desire.  The delightful things we love about ourselves… also are our wealth.

You can just start where you are…

[You can] stop running…

[You can] work openheartedly with life just as it is.

It is very healing to stop hiding from yourself.

[Once] we’ve gotten to know our personal pain… we [will] be brave enough to feel the pain of others.

The wisdom and compassion we need are already within us.

It is healing to know… all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize people, all your weird little ways.  You can know all that with some sense of humor and kindness.  By knowing yourself, you’re coming to know humanness altogether.  We are all up against these things.  We are all in this together.

You’ll be changing old stuck patterns that are shared by the whole human race.

We can make friends with what we reject, what we see as “bad” in ourselves and in others…  We [can] learn to be generous with what we cherish, what we see as “good.”  [Once] we begin to live in this way… something in us begins to ripen...  [S]omething that we already have but usually have not yet discovered.

It’s as if we were… homeless and hungry and cold, and… right under the ground where we always slept was a pot of gold…

Our confusion and misery come from not knowing that the gold is right here.

When we talk about joy {or hope… or resilience} … and waking up… all that means is that we know the gold is right here, and

we realize that it’s been here all along.”

~from the opening chapter, titled “No Escape, No Problem” of Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron (I’ve taken sections and humbly edited out some of the ellipses […] for flow & clarity… and pulled out some parts for added emphasis… the entire section unedited will be available soon.)

No Escape, No Problem

(No Escape from ALL THIS…  feels a bit like a Problem.)

We already have everything we need.  (What we need is still here; it’s still available, if we can but find it.)

There is no need for self-improvement.  (The world seems beyond redemption.  But…  It’s not my job to fix or improve anything.  Stay here, in the moment.  There is no need to run…  Just… BE HERE NOW.)

All these trips we lay on ourselves… fearing we’re bad… hoping we’re good…never touch our basic wealth.  They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun.  All the time our warmth and brilliance are right here.

(In this moment, dealing with this so-difficult thing, there is fear present, and other things I cannot name.   Liz Gilbert says she invites Fear (Mara) to tea; that when she goes out into the world, she invites Mara, Little Fearfulness, to travel with her in the backseat… 

So, Mara, Little Fearfulness–I greet you.  Mara Mine–come sit at this table.  Rest your head.  I see you as I breathe…  As I breathe deeply.  As I Breathe, I see, there is space in me to sit still, with you. Sit and Rest awhile, Mara, Little Fearful One.)

This is who we really are.  (Who are we?  Is there goodness, anymore?)

We are one blink of an eye from being fully awake.  (This felt true one hour ago.  I want to believe that Truth holds, still.  I will awaken myself.  I will awaken my Heart.  I will invite other beings to Awaken.  I will keep Awakening to Light and Love and Healing, as long as I have breath to sustain me.)

Looking at ourselves this way is very different from our usual habit.  From this perspective we don’t need to change:  you can feel as wretched as you like… you’re still a good candidate for enlightenment.

(We can breathe, first and foremost–We don’t need to change anything in order to just Breathe.  It’s okay for things to feel wretched.  Wretched is okay.  We don’t need to set torches of anger and hate for Love and Light to ignite. 

I will seek Goodness; I will follow the Light.  I will not change my nature.  I will stay in the moment. 

I will breathe…  Innnnnnnnn…, Deeply.  I will breathe…  Ooooooutttttt…, Slowly.)

You can feel like the world’s most hopeless basket case, but that feeling is your wealth.

There’s a richness to all of the smelly stuff that we so dislike and so little desire.  The delightful things we love about ourselves… also are our wealth.

(The wisest people say this, over and over–there is growth and renewal hidden, always, in the smelly shit we hate to see and smell.  “Out of manure, grow tomatoes,” my garden-lover husband said to me tonight, eating the last of this harvest’s tomatoes, before the Shit Hit the Fan.

The wise people I love and admire, whom I’ve always looked up to, who led me before this–I will trust in you now.  I will call upon your spirits…

Come, wisehearted ones–please come…  Come to my side, and, stay awhile. Stay close by me.  Hold my hand.  Hold me…. hold me, love me and heal me and keep me whole, in this dreadful hour.)

You can just start where you are…  (I am.  I will continue to stay where I am.)

[You can] work openheartedly with life just as it is.

[Once] we’ve gotten to know our personal pain… we [will] be brave enough to feel the pain of others.  (Bravery is another friend…  He is like “Mara-Fear”–but–I will name him Bulldog Bravery.  Bravery, the Bulldog-like one…  come sit with me.  Sit with me, Bold Bravery, and stay awhile.  You are welcome to lick me, to lend me your SuperSized Strength.)

The wisdom and compassion we need are already within us.  (They are.  They are.)

It is healing to know… all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize…  You can know all that with some sense of humor and kindness.  By knowing yourself, you’re coming to know humanness altogether.  We are all up against these things.  We are all in this together.

(This idea, I have believed forever–I want to continue to believe it now.  My truest truth has been that “we are all in this together.”  It doesn’t feel like it now.   Not in this moment, not in this particular now. 

I will hold to my inner humanity, I will hold to all that is warm and loving and kind–and believe it is possible that another moment may be different.

I will hope that is possible that my love, the Love underlying each Breath… can help other Good Ones who bravely wish to Know Love.  I am not able to give my love to the many ones who have hurt me, in this current hour…  That cannot be asked of me, I will not ask it of myself.  But I will hold onto Love for the Good and will not spite the rest.)

You’ll be changing old stuck patterns that are shared by the whole human race.  (The words “old stuck patterns”–help me remember our ancestors.  Remember, remember, remember

remember our grandmothers, and great-grandmothers,

going back as far as we can imagine–

they are with us still. 

They knew how to conquer enormous challenges, calamities so much worse than this.  

Be with us, be with me now, Kind Wise Grandmothers.)

We can make friends with what we reject, what we see as “bad” in ourselves and in others…   (I want to, I want to see a way.)

We [can] learn to be generous with what we cherish, what we see as “good.”   (I want to do this too.)

[Once] we begin to live in this way… something in us begins to ripen...  [S]omething that we already have but usually have not yet discovered.

(Oh, goddesses galore, if this could be so…  I wish for Something to begin Ripening.  They say it is always darkest before the dawn.  May the dawn come, may it come, may something new, ripen.)

It’s as if we were… homeless and hungry and cold, and… right under the ground where we always slept was a pot of gold…  (I’ll look.  I will look, I will look, I will keep my eyes out for Gold and Light.)

Our confusion and misery come from not knowing that the gold is right here. (Okay!  I hear you!  I’ll keep looking…  I’m hearing–there is Good, there is GOODNESS, keep looking and seeking…  you will find it.)

When we talk about joy {or hope… or resilience} … and waking up… all that means is that we know the gold is right hereand we realize that it’s been here all along.

(All right!  Okay!  So, I hear you saying to me:

It’s possible to awaken anywhere, anywhen.

So. 

I will breathe. 

I will not let myself fall into a hopeless trance.  I will keep a fire in my heart.  I will stay by that fire.  I will sit vigil with sanity and love.  I will find the Good in me. 

I will hold still.

I will hold still, and breathe into that Good.  I will breathe Good out, breathe in… and out… as I sit here.  With Mara nearby.  Resting her tired head on the table.  With Bulldog Bravery standing his Huge Protective watch over me, as I sit here, grounded, on the floor.  

As I Breathe.  With the grandmothers in a circle, chanting around me.)

Help me–

Help me Breathe

Help me Remember Goodness and Love

Help me Awaken

Keep Us Safe, forces of Goodness.

The Trees that Stand Tall & Safe and Help Guide us–Watch over us.

Sun and moon and stars, tides and rivers too–watch over us.  Watch over all the Loving Tender Hearts.  

As we Keep Breathing–Keep Us Safe.

If something on this page touched you, please *SPREAD the KINDNESS!*
heidi.juniper
Founder at A Kindful Place
Heidi Juniper is a recovering perfectionist and self-connection coach, helping people gain power and insight from their emotions, by honouring each person’s own inner wisdom, and offering tools from psychology and neuroscience.

She sincerely hopes that this fledgling community, as it grows, may help you find something meaningful or helpful you've not found elsewhere.

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4 Comments On "“Full Catastrophe Living” Lesson One: BREATHE"

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Paul
Member

Phew! Thanks for posting this. The most helpful thing right now (for me) is the reminder TO BREATHE. To let it out slowly. Don’t set a torch of anger. It’s all I do right now. I cannot think rationally. I cannot act rationally. I can only react and when I feel myself reacting … BREATHE …

Tracey
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Tracey

Thank you so much for this lovely website! Have a peaceful night! <3

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