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Into Thin Air

On my recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park I worried about the thin air at elevation. Would I be able to do what I wanted to do while there, or would I have to stay back at our beautiful rental house?

The RMNP website offers this explanation about breathing at elevation: “At higher elevations there is less air pressure which results in the oxygen molecules being more dispersed. Until your body adjusts, it will struggle to take in enough oxygen. This can result in shortness of breath, as well as headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, and even nausea. It is not uncommon to experience breathlessness with even a simple walk down the sidewalk or up a flight of stairs, even for those who are very fit.”

I did struggle, but not so much that I could not go and do. I quickly learned that I needed to pause to breathe, sometimes often, and I had to let the struggle be okay. Isn’t that the teaching in meditation, though? Pause, be present, and breathe. Focus on the breath.

I love that the altitude forces you to be mindful of your breath, of oxygen, and of the present moment. Right now, in this moment, breathe. Be mindful of this life force–air–oxygen–and take it in as well as your body and lungs allow. Go at your own pace. Breathe, as suits your body.

Breathing is not a thing to take for granted, especially there, but anywhere. But there, at those high elevations, you really have to pay attention to it. The altitude, the mountains, become a teacher, asking you to be mindful of the breath, of your body, of your very basic needs and abilities, of your surroundings. Be present. Breathe.

I found this all so interesting. The meditation teachers always have you “focus on the breath.” Susan Salzberg speaks of “just this one breath.” And the mountains do, too.

Teachers everywhere. Thank you.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”― Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

“The Tantric sages tell us that our in-breath and out-breath actually mirror the divine creative gesture. With the inhalation, we draw into our own center, our own being. With the exhalation, we expand outward into the world.” ― Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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