I want to scream, slap my face and say “Wake up, wake the fuck up”, but I know better, turning against myself won’t bring me back. Heart closed, I feel like a cold, abandoned house where everything has been stripped away. My soul goes quiet as my mind works overtime to eradicate the cause of dissociation.
Feeling helpless, I get up to make a cup of tea, and notice the quote on my tea bag, “The voice of your soul is breath.”
I was first introduced to the power of the breath in a yoga class years ago. Standing on my mat, faced with the discomfort of a difficult pose, my mind and body said “pull away, this is going to hurt.” Normally, I would have listened to this message, but with the teacher’s encouragement, I shifted my focus from my thoughts to my breath and as I did, my body relaxed and move into the pose with ease.
Stunned by what had happened, it occurred to me that my mind did not have all the answers and that maybe it was limiting me in ways I wasn’t aware of. Doubting my emotional resilience, I spent years sidestepping my pain. Looking outside myself for relief, I used food, alcohol, cigarettes, and TV to try and hide from the darkness that stalked me. The more I resisted it, the more it bled into my existence.
Learning to turn toward my discomfort, the way I did in that yoga class, became one of the most powerful tools in my healing process. When faced with an uncomfortable feeling like sadness or anger, I noticed my mind and heart screamed “stop, I don’t want to feel this.” Instead of turning my back on my suffering as I had always done, I began using my awareness and my breath to welcome the experience of my emotions, including those around my traumatic past.
As uncomfortable as it was at times, I was relieved to feel something deeper than chronic anxiety and depression. Moving through the pain didn’t break me, in fact it freed me. The more I allowed myself to feel, the more space I created for joy and love.
In spite of all the healing I have done, my initial reaction to anything difficult is to run. Living in a culture where the message is “buy, drink, eat, use, or take this and you will feel better,” suggests there is an easy fix for my suffering. The time I spend avoiding my discomfort, enables me to slip quietly out of myself. Checking out no longer serves me, in fact it makes the richness of my life feel elusive, like standing outside on a beautiful day, unable to feel the warmth of the sun on my face.
“The voice of your soul is breath.” It’s not a coincidence that I have received this message and yes, I do believe in signs. Yesterday, I was handed a flyer for a 30 day meditation challenge and I have accepted. My life keeps reminding me, the way back is through the breath.
Today, in the expanse of my disconnection, I miss the depth of my emotional world and all its intensity. Letting go of my thoughts, I bring my awareness to my body and notice it’s been days since I took a proper inhale and exhale. With purpose, I gently breathe in and out a little more deeply, feeling the familiarity of my being and with gratitude, I make my way home.
Ashley Torrent is a writer, psycho-spiritual counselor, wife, surfer and mother of two beautiful beasts. She recently moved to South Carolina and is in the process of untangling her nervous system from the pull, the pace and the noise of New York City, her home for the last 14 years. Her collection of writing speaks to the different aspects of her life as a parent, as the child of someone with a severe mental illness and as a human being on a journey toward connection in a disconnected world. You can follow her at AshleyTorrent.Com
(Image used with permission by the author)
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