On Not Chasing Things
As soon as you stop chasing something, it settles.
I think of Chalupa, our not-so-baby English bulldog. She turned one in March, so she really does still have a lot of puppy in her. She alternates between growing up, i.e. settling down, and spurts of hyper-excited, can't-calm-down energy. She goes all over the kitchen and jumps and circles and gets super mouthy if not downright bitey.
My instinct, when she does this, is to meet her energy with the same energy, running away from her, my voice getting louder and more insistent that she stop, like yelling at someone to calm down, as if that ever worked in the history of ever.
The best thing for her, and for me, in those moments turns out to be the opposite. To calm myself down. To get quiet. To get down on her level, take her collar in my hand, put the other hand on her body, her mighty little shoulders, her belly, firmly.
Last night, Mani and I watched a video about belly breathing, on the Instagram account of Dr. Nicole LePera, aka the Holistic Psychologist. It was short -- maybe five minutes -- and in that time, she did a wonderfully simply teaching for a) how to belly breathe and b) when to belly breathe.
Dr. LePera suggests practicing five deep belly breaths per day, as opposed to waiting until you actually *need* them. This way, when you do feel anxiety or panic mounting, your body will recognize the breaths and know what to do.
It's a lot to ask of a body, or a puppy, to calm down, when it has no tools or practice.
I sat down to write about the pursuit of magic, and here I am, writing about dogs and bellies and breathing and calming down. Why?
The energy of pursuit can lift me right off the ground, and not in a good way. It is easy to get swept away in a current of chasing, which is laced with grasping and shrouded in scarcity.
The real magic comes when I relax.
When I sit down on the floor with Chalupa, she immediately scooches her backside against me for a rub. I can feel her body, her whole bulldog being, easing into safety.
"She's got me," she seems to be saying.
But what about myself? When I am jumping all over the room in my head -- bills to pay! books to write! groups to lead! bills to pay! kids to drive! websites to update! bills to pay! -- the last thing I need, and the furthest thing from magic, if to meet myself with frantic energy telling myself to calm down!
Five deep belly breaths. One hand on the belly.
Hang on -- I'm going to do this practice right now.
OK, I'm back. I noticed that my chest did a lot of filling up. She said that happened to her at first, too. Years of chest breathing. Years of flailing around, chasing my own tail, instead of stopping everything for a few minutes and trusting that all will be well.
All will be well.
To sit with those four words, now that has to be some kind of magic. Not the kind I have to pursue. Not the kind I have to pay for or work for or push for. An image just came to me of a living thing trapped in some kind of net. I don't want to chase after magic only to keep it in a bag where it can't get out.
Magic needs freedom.
And true freedom requires beginning here, with this moment of quiet and stillness.
I don't want to pursue magic.
I just want to be still enough for it to find me, put its hands on my back, and say, "I've got you."