Tuesday, October 8, 2013

One Word at a Time

My oldest son Ben is an emerging reader.  He has a large number of site words under his figurative belt but is less self-motivated than his big sister.  Whereas Lorelei would sit herself down and try to figure out every word as if it were a fun riddle to solve, Ben must be prompted to read something, and he rarely gets through more than half a book, even though he actually does read that half a book.  That's okay.  He's doing fine as is.

Over the weekend we were playing Discapades, a fun family game that he really loves, and I encouraged him to read the card himself rather than hand it directly to me.  I put my finger under each word, trying to get him to focus on that one word--and only that one word.  He would read it but jump to the next.  Always trying to rush to the next.

"Good, Ben, but one word at a time.  Don't get ahead of yourself!  Just one word at a time."

Much of what comes out of my mouth for my children really needs to boomerang right around and fly back at me with considerable force and hit me upside the head, so that I actually hear it.  These nuggets of wisdom actually did.

I've begun practicing yoga again after off-and-on practicing for most of my adult life.  As a compulsive runner and Crossfitter, I've not made the time to fit anything that won't make me sweat into my schedule.  The fact that I have three small kids--2, 4, and 6--might also have something to do with that.  The yoga that I've begun to practice probably has a cool -asana or -anthana name that I am ignorant of; all I know is that it focuses on breathwork.

As in breathing.  In.  Out.  Sometimes we count.  In 1-2-3-4, out 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.  Just one breath at a time.

I'm amazed at how counting my breath like this can actually clear my mind for a few minutes (let's be realistic--it's not for hours, but I'm amazed and proud to achieve a minute or two).  The worry and the stress and the to-do lists and the what-should-I-do-about-its are put on hold.  They don't disappear.  But the are put on hold.  And that is enough.

I wish I could say that I've incorporated 30 minutes or even just 15 minutes of this quiet meditative breathing into my days.  Nope.  Not yet.  But I do it whenever I can.  At red lights.  While my youngest son insists he sit on my lap to eat.  In carpool.  When my oldest is taking a few minutes trying to figure out what it was she was going to tell me.  In bed.

With this whole focus on breathing thing, I bring myself back to the present moment.  I realize that I can't control the next moment, much as I would like.  And that I can't change the moment that just slipped out of my reach.  Same with the days.  I struggle or soar--usually a combination of the two that resembles a steady trip--through my day, through the many conversations and decisions I am facing that threaten to overwhelm me at any given moment.  When I get to that overwhelming feeling, I can reach inside myself and pause.  That moment--that decision, that conversation, that interaction--will be there when I get back, but for now, I just need to breathe.

One breath at a time.  One word at a time.  One day at a time.


  1. I read your post, while breathing in and out slowly, or at least trying to, and shoving food into my mouth. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I too "struggle and soar" through my days and also need the reminder to stop and breathe and take things one word/step/problem/event/need/project at a time. Learning to read is indeed a metaphor for life.

  2. that was such a thoughtful response. thank you!