Stations of the breath

It sounds like it’s raining when I step outside in my snow boots and long raincoat. There is a crust on the snow and I make way to the woods to the right of the house. I choose that direction because I assess that there will be less resistance in the snow that is under the canopy of the white pines.

I stop and look closely at the ice-covered branches. I contemplate that while the outside of the pine needle is frozen, on the inside there is energy and warmth. I enter the woods and gaze at the snow covered branches and underbrush and think about my breath.

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Today is the third day of an online retreat experience called Seasons of the Soul. Provided by the Abby of the Arts, this first week’s lesson and the 10-minute meditation that I listened to this morning urges us to contemplate our breath and how it is a continuous series of four: the moment before the inhale, the inhale itself, the pause between the inhale and the exhale, and then finally the exhale.

I think about that exhale as I see the underbrush overwhelmed with the weight of the snow. I ignore the urge to lie down, knowing that all that will happen is that I will feel the cold and the wet.

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I muse on surrender, and think that while we resist this giving up because it seems like some sort of failure, when we do give in, we quit the struggle, accept, become lighter and unburdened.

As the ice falls to the forest floor, I notice the light changing in the expanse of the wetlands and hurry to the edge to capture the image. The blue peeks through the flat white sky and I know, in that instant, that the warming air is melting the tree’s burden.

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I contemplate the irony that I headed for the woods for shelter, and found that that was the only place it was storming. I make my way back to the house, maintaining a path on the edge of the wetlands. I try to discern where to step, seeking solid ground while knowing that at any moment I could step into unfrozen water. The trees are thick, and I cannot return without going once more into the rain.

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I surrender: there is no way out but through. I duck through the branches: to the field, the icy snow and the warm house beyond.