Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Mindful Family: Just Take Three

Three breaths can make any situation better. 

Today we accomplished something amazing as a mindful family. It wasn't the seventeen miles cycling down the Virginia Creeper Trail in Southwest Virginia. This trail, once a train track pulling logs off the mountains is an active, easy and beautiful breezeway past old towns and rivers overlapping each other on the mountainside. 

It wasn't the easy way we worked together as a team of three families: one took the post of lead, one took the rear and a third, nearly an Eagle Scout, swept up and down if we lost our rhythms and found ourselves separated. In our line of nine, there was room for experiment (a wheelie or two), easy, loving conversations and varied paces. It was a natural, lovely union to experience. 

It wasn't the perfect canopy of tree and vine and rocks on both sides of the trail peppered with falls every so many miles. Five of our nine are boys under the age of sixteen, so the falls lured their dipped toes, brazen jumps and "accidental" splashes. This wilderness, part Appalachian Trail, part Mount Rogers National Park is pretty amazing: protected and preserved: a quiet thoroughfare for those choosing the path less traveled. 

Yes, pretty amazing but not as amazing as when an insect stung my child. 

I saw him stopped on the trail a few hundred feet ahead of me. He was still. When we pulled up, Baker, age 10 was holding back huge tears. He collapsed into Scott's arms. Stung. Maybe a bee, maybe a yellow jacket: likely an insect as surprised by Baker as Baker was by him. A whelp rose up quickly on the back of his neck and he was overwhelmed with pain. I looked at him and said: breathe with me: three times. He held it together with something new to focus on. 

We washed his neck and he kept breathing. I heard him counting, one...two...three. Within minutes he was back on the trail making up for lost time. Yellow jackets, beware. His amazing space for meditating through a bee sting, without a baking soda paste for miles was amazing to watch. Three cycles of three breaths and he was back on the bike. 

Once home, our nine year-old Edward complained of a splinter. First attempts with tweezers failed and the serious invasive needle technique was our only option. Ice pack, light and needle in hand, I went for it. And this time, without suggesting it, I watched this boy start breathing rhythmically instead of crying. He counted...one...two...three...and by round two he was calmer and much relieved to find the splinter gone. Three breaths and a whole new world. 

The boys weren't together when these two events happened, but somewhere along the way--maybe it was learning Flower Power with the Yoginos: Yoga for Youth Program, meditating at home or practicing mindful breath on the pitcher's mound--somewhere along the way they picked up this tool we all need: just three breaths. 

Sharon Salzburg says that if you are breathing you are meditating. Three breaths take you away from the place that you aren't to the place that you are: mindful, aware and ok. 


So the next time I get stung by a bee, or stung by anything: a friend's harsh comment, unexpected traffic or stress at work: I hope I can remember to just take three: three breaths into the present moment. If a nine year old can do it, so can I. 

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