This morning I struggled to breathe. I woke with a heavy chest, not from daily burdens, but from cane sugar burning near the house. Maui is perhaps the only place on earth where burning pesticide-laden sugar cane fields, along with plastic irrigation lines, is still legal. And in advance of tropical storm Ana, those toxic fumes and smoke wafted up to, and into our home and bedroom.
As a runner and former asthmatic, I still need to pay particular attention to my lungs. And so, we set our air cleaner and ozone maker on high, and I went in to our meditation room to try and relax the chest, and breathe a little easier. I put tape over my mouth to ensure I breathe through my nose, which activates the para-sympathetic nervous system, calming the body, and breathing through the nose cleans the air that enters.
I sat for 45 minutes, and had perhaps a few interesting, smoke-induced visions, but didn’t feel any better. So I made myself a beautiful green smoothie, with beet, ginger, kale, chia seeds, and whoops, forgot the turmeric, nature’s greatest anti-inflammatory. But, I did add in cucumber and aloe, two amazing healing substances in their own right, and maca, which has amazing healing, and warming properties as well.
Giant smoothie down, I went outside and snapped a few photos of our little Buddha, and the veil of smoke hanging all around. I didn’t want to capture negative, but instead the juxtaposition of stillness and chaos that’s present in each moment. For there is always calm, even in the eye of the storm. And then I went in to meditate again.
Life is about the juxtaposition, or the opposites. When you’re running, you may want to rest. And when you sit, you may wish to run. There’s nothing wrong with either. Everything has its opposite, and everything, in a sense, has its value. By waking to chaos, or smoke entering the house, I was thrust into the nervous energy of fight or flight, for every animals natural instinct is to flee in smoke…and forced to face this energy, and find a way to bring balance to my heightened nervous system. By meditating, nourishment, and a bit more meditation, I was able to bring myself the self-love and self-care I needed to calm myself, and despite the energy of fire, re-center and bring myself back into the silence of the present moment.
That’s what I desire in each moment, and in my running to. To be the calm in the center of the storm. Like the eye of the hurricane, if I can find that inner peace, and latch onto that stillness, that precious, tranquil place in the center of it all, then I am at ease, no matter what winds may blow…and can do great things.
Seek this in your daily life, when you see chaos, think calm, when things are spinning out of control, remember the eye, and try to draw yourself back to your center. How? The easiest way is to go back to your breath, something we’ll talk about much more in many upcoming posts, and of course in our Mindful Running program too. But for now, just focus on a nice slow inhalation (at least to the count of five, if not longer), and an equally slow exhalation, always through the nose. This isn’t just calming, but strengthens your cardiovascular system, helping your running too.