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Gratitude for Breath

Will my meditation practice still soothe me if I get sick with COVID-19 and can't breathe?

I read in one of the mental health articles circulating online that people who practice yoga and meditation were made for these times of isolation and social distancing. It is our time because we are familiar with turning inward and spending time with ourselves. Turning inward definitely is an experience that I look forward to when I go to yoga or meditation class. The yoga mat is my refuge, the place I know I can keep to myself with no peer pressure to be anything other than what I am. I am required to do nothing but breathe.

That last part has always been so meaningful to me. It lets me off the hook. I can go to meditation class and be uptight and worrying and anxious about a million different things. But when I sit on the cushion and close my eyes, straightening my spine, I know that all I have to do, all that is expected of me, all that I need to accomplish, is to breathe. That’s it. I don’t have to worry about doing anything else. I just have to continue the journey of breathing in my own inhales, and letting go of my own exhales.

While the practice of meditation and breathing my own breath is a wonderful refuge, those with Covid-19 are not so lucky. They can’t breathe without pain and difficulty. I’ve heard breathing described as shards of broken glass penetrating the lungs. To make matters worse these sick folks who can’t breathe are forced to combat the disease alone because it is so highly contagious.

I fear this illness. I’m confident in my ability to be alone, but only because I know how to utilize my breath to keep calm. I’ve learned to focus my attention on my breath, using the rhythm of my inhales and exhales to soothe both mental angst and physical pain.  

So what do I do if I get Covid-19 and I can’t breathe? Will everything I’ve learned about how to comfort myself go out the window if I can’t catch my breath? What can I turn to when everything I know about calming my anxiety is wrapped up in the breath?

And why a worldwide disease that attacks breathing? I think there must be a reason. But if I go in that direction, I only lose hope about ever breathing calmly again.

The direction I choose to go, with this fear of not being able to breathe, is gratitude. I am grateful for my breath, the reliable perch I’ve grown to know for my monkey-minded attention. Not only am I grateful, I can play with the breath and be amazed at all it can do for me. Deep belly breath, long inhale through the nose, then out the mouth with all the force my lungs can muster. In playing I will thank the Giver of breath, and breathe in deep for all of those people whose lungs are drowning in infected fluid. I will breathe for all of those who can’t.

Metta Prayer (for good will)

May all beings be peaceful.

May all beings be happy.

May all beings be safe.

May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature

May all beings be free.

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