Just Breathe

just breathe - catalina island

Just breathe.  Just be.

Those seem such simple and obvious statements.  After all, breathing is reflexive, right?  We do it in our sleep, in waking, and never stop – it’s not something you generally put your mind to unless it becomes difficult.  But sometimes you just need to give yourself the permission to breathe… and nothing else.  Feel the air enter your lungs, enrich your blood, and leave the way it came.  Let the world slow down around you and actually experience the moment you’re in.  Live fully in the moment… and I’ve spent the last year living exactly in that place.

Everything seems to want to rush forward these days.  Career, experiences, emotions, relationships, you name it.  Patience may be a virtue, but it seems one we’re all a bit lacking in. We want everything, right now, and fear that to pause is to lose, to pass up opportunity.  Just over a year ago I reached a pinnacle of stress – emotional, physical, existential, romantic, intellectual, social – everything ganged up on me and exploded one particularly horrible evening – which ironically should have been an amazing one.

Worst day of my life, frankly.  And a bellwether of paths to come.

I was literally forced to slow down.  Over the following month or two, my self esteem continued to be withered down to a shell, my self-confidence shattered.  I’ve been low before, but this time was different, lower, and far heavier.  Many friends (not to mention family and lovers) walked away from it all.  I found my support system eroded to just myself, my son, and my immediate family within months.  So I just concentrated on breathing, living each day as it came, and manifesting my strength while working 24-7 to fix everything I could and get back on a positive path.

The progress I made over the subsequent year was immense. It’s really solidified the need to not let life hurry me, to rush me, to allow me to settle for anything less than I truly deserve.  Too many times beforehand I’ve fallen victim to the urgent drive of modern life over the natural rhythms of the soul.  Instead of feeling relaxed and at peace, it instead makes me anxious and insecure.  The good guys don’t always finish first in this world.

But life is what we make of it. And sometimes the best things take time, patience, resolve.  And faith.

It’s confusing when other people’s expectations, needs, wants and desires become intertwined with our own.  Personally, professionally, emotionally, we can soak up the anxiety of other people’s concerns, needs and insecurities if we’re not careful.  I’ve not always managed that well as an empath.  It’s far too easy for me to get overwhelmed with the anxiety and impatience of the world around me and self-internalize it.

However, this last year I’ve really reconnected with myself and downshifted my pace.  It’s meant I’ve had to shut off a lot of outside influences in my life, turn off social media, let my phone go to voice mail, and just let myself be.  I’ve had to not settle upon easy paths, or turn away from hard ones.

And just breathe.

This slowing down has been amazingly illuminating (as well as equal portions of beautiful, disappointing, confusing, heartbreaking and transformative, to be honest). I’m eternally grateful for the friends who really showed up for me over this last year, as it hasn’t been remotely easy.  It’s shown me where my real support system lies and how much strength I actually have to use it.  And I’m pleased to say that nearly all the setbacks that horrible night brought me have resolved themselves and moved back in a positive direction.  By just downshifting, and breathing – nothing more.

It’s certainly been painful to let go of opportunities that passed me by. But it got easier realizing that if an opportunity doesn’t want to match my pace, or at least work with me on it to take mindful, honest steps forward – than it’s not an opportunity for me.  It’s also been hard to release my grip on myself and allow my growth and healing to happen naturally. It’s led to a beautiful period of growth, but has come at costs. I’ve had to really stop pushing myself for results, and instead lean back and enjoy the journey without having to always fine-tune the course.  It’s meant some of my progress and growth have come from unexpected directions, ones I wouldn’t have taken in my old frame of mind.

All of it has been necessary.  And none of it would have been possible if I hadn’t stopped letting anyone or anything else set my pace or path, but just stop, breathe, and follow my instincts and empathic intuition.

The last has been particularly difficult. As an empath, you feel emotions and ‘states’ around you, but unless you’ve experienced that emotion before on a personal level, it’s difficult to ‘translate’ it.  And I’ve read a lot wrong as my senses heightened, probably more than I’ve read right.  But oddly enough- it’s the rush to comprehend, to act, that always messes that up too.  Whenever I’ve felt an unidentifiable ‘vibe’ from someone or something, I’ve often tried to immediately relate it to a feeling of my own experience- but when I give things time, truth always makes itself evident.

And with that, I’ve built up my own confidence again.  To not take false signals or warning flares, but to simply let situations unfold, resolve, become clear.  Everything becomes clear with patience.  And that helps you make each step with confidence.

I still have no idea what’s coming next for me, where or how it will manifest. I can feel that huge change is nearing however, in every fiber of my body.  But I’m still not rushing it, and I’m not fearing it. I just know that I want to keep growing into something new, something fresh, and not play out a preconception I’ve held onto – or worse, just ‘plug into’ someone else’s preconceived story in the interest of security or simplicity.

I’ll only follow my heart in directions that reciprocate, that nurture me. I’ll only follow my brain in directions that feel comfortable, and help me grow in a healthy way. I’ll only follow my gut when my heart and brain have had a chance to check in as well.  And that could mean some serious 180 degree turns in my near future.  Cool with me.

One step forward at a time.  Breathe in,  Breathe out.

And everything just keeps getting better.