A huge thanks to Lanie Smith, MPS, ATR for this guest post. A must read for all clinicians, no matter where you are at in the journey.
Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
-Judyth Hill, “Wage Peace”
The above poem is chock full of sage advice. It reminds us to practice our breath in the way Tibetan Buddhists do using what is called tonglen: to breathe in suffering and breath out comfort for others. This is an approach I can recall first discovering some 15+ years ago, desperately wanting to attain this level of presence and nonattachment to moments of joy, the same way I did not want to overidentify with pain and suffering. Granted, that was only the beginning. I was not able to truly experience any extended periods of presence until I started moving through some of my own history and the accumulation of past hurts.