I encountered a pretty challenging situation today at school. Can't go into details, but I had a little confrontation with someone I work with. While I did not do something that was entirely in the wrong, what I said to her provoked a deep and pained response. I was shocked by how I'd obviously hurt her. She rattled me to the core--my way of interacting with students was called into question. I was barely able to compose myself and finish what I was doing before I had a chance to scuttle off.
My main yoga teacher has told us a few times that pranayama deep breathing is the perfect way to combat stressful situations. Until today, I wondered if that was contradictory advice. After all, the dialogue says, "Warming up the body, from the inside out." It always seems to have an energizing effect. Wouldn't that be the opposite of what you want when riddled with anxiety?
After the incident with the person, I had less than 30 minutes to get to an important meeting. Dilemma time: do I go to my office and prepare for the meeting, or go outside and get centered? Some days, I would have just gone to the office. I'd have squished the feelings about the student away to some little corner of my bowels, and they would have probably just come bubbling up again at the most inopportune of times. Probably during the meeting ;-)
But today I decided to take a walk to a lovely garden not far from my office. There, as I stared at the bright the fish in the lilypad-covered pond underneath the mango tree, the tears started up. I couldn't get the incident out of my head. There was this desire to indulge and obsess over what happened, yet, I needed to get to this meeting. I remembered what my teacher said about pranyama, so, as the tears began to spill, I stood up and began inhaling through the nose exhaling, through the mouth. By breath 10, I kid you not, I was fine. Not perfect, but my head was clear and I knew I had it together enough to go to the meeting.
The fishies and mango tree didn't hurt, either :-)
Pranyama, y'all. Did ya know the Sanskrit name means "restraint of the prana (life force) or breath"? It's almost counter-intuitive. Restraining the breath, the life force, awakens and enlivens us, enabling us to connect and be more present.
Stuff still needs to be worked out with this student. I'm still anxious to see how it will resolve, to see how deep the impact will be. But one breath at a time is all we can ever do, right?