We traveled two weekends ago to attend a memorial service in Ohio. Having done such little travel in the last 1.5 years, I found myself walking my kids through some possible outcomes. Upon reflection, I think I was actually walking myself through possible scenarios. However, I verbalized them aloud for Keener and Grace to hear. I found myself telling them, We expect that our flight is going to take off on time. But sometimes things happen that we don’t expect. The pilot may come on and tell us there is a problem. We may have to wait longer than we expected to take off.
While there is no way to prepare for all of the possible scenarios in travel, or in life, talking about and thinking through possible plans often proves to be helpful. In this instance, it helped me remember to bring extra diapers and snacks. But it also helped my kids prepare for possible deviations to our plan.
I talk to Keener and Grace a lot about being flexible. We talk about what it looks like and why it is important. While I often wish things would be 100% predictable, certain and secure, it turns out life doesn’t work that way. Whether it’s spilling your water bottle on your shorts on the way to camp or a flight delay coming home after a trip, life is anything but certain.
Lessons from a brain surgeon
I just listened to Dr. Chatterjee interview cancer brain surgeon Dr. Rahul Jandial. While talking about his pre-surgery routine, he said, “You can’t always anticipate what’s going to happen, but that’s life for most people.” To prepare, Dr. Jandial mentally and physically preps himself the night before surgery — a combination of breath work and light physical activity. While I am thankfully not performing brain surgery, I can’t help but think that the intention with which he prepares wouldn’t benefit all of us. Inevitably, anticipated and unanticipated challenges constantly arise.
Dr. Jandial goes on to talk about resilience. He discusses two types of resilience which was new to me. He described systemic resilience as you have it in you, it’s what you bring. Processive resilience he described as what does the struggle bring out in you? He went on to add that you may not even recognize these qualities in yourself. This has me thinking a lot. No, we can’t plan for every hiccup, deviation, or loss that inevitably will come our way. However, we can do more than we think. And we are much more capable than we know.
Breathing with intention
The one thing that we all have and can control is our breath. Our breath is with us 24/7 and thankfully nourishes us whether we are attempting to control it or not. Our breath holds the key. We can use it to our advantage at any time of the day or night. Breathing Makes It Better is a children’s book that I absolutely love. I think it should be required reading for every child and adult. Breath in, breath out, peace is near. Dr. Jundial talks about how vital control of the breath is during his surgeries. He says, “If I don’t get my breathing right, I am not at my best.” He also reminds us that it’s free.
I can’t help but think any of us are at our best if our breathing is not right. When I am anxious, distracted, or overwhelmed, I am never able to do my best thinking or problem solving. The more I practice breathing with intention, the better I become at using my breath when I need it most — when life is anything but certain. My “freak out” breathing/thinking generally doesn’t lead me down the path I want to be on.
Another favorite is I Can Handle it! about a little boy named Sebastian. From not being able to find his shoes to not getting the pet he wants, he evaluates his options and always decides that he can handle it. Keener, Grace and I apply this book to our lives all the time, reminding each other we really can handle whatever comes our way.
Breathing a little deeper
James Nestor, author of the book, Breath, also wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal. In the article, it states, “Breathing properly can allow us to live longer and healthier lives. Breathing poorly, by contrast, can exacerbate and sometimes cause a laundry list of chronic diseases: asthma, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, hypertension and more.” So how do we breath properly to allow us to live longer and healthier lives?
The article goes on to say, “…the first step in healthy breathing [is] extending breaths to make them a little deeper, a little longer. Try it. For the next several minutes, inhale gently through your nose to a count of about five and then exhale, again through your nose, at the same rate or a little more slowly if you can. This works out to about six breaths a minute.”
“When we breathe like this we can better protect the lungs from irritation and infection while boosting circulation to the brain and body. Stress on the heart relaxes; the respiratory and nervous systems enter a state of coherence where everything functions at peak efficiency.” Peak efficiency? Sign me up for operating at peak efficiency.
Control what we can control
Living in a world that is anything but certain, we must remind ourselves what we can control:
- planning for the unexpected and naming possible solutions before the challenges arise
- our breath — it’s always with us
- acknowledging and accepting our true feelings about uncertainty — knowing feelings really do come and go
- the resilience we bring to the struggle — I can handle it, peace is near
- believing Dr. Eger’s wisdom that, “The more I suffer, the stronger I become.”