By Daniel Scharpenburg
It’s snowing in Kansas City.
I don’t like snow. Sure, I liked playing in it as a kid, like everyone else. But since growing up…well, I think it’s beautiful. It’s nice to look out the window and see the trees and the grass covered in snow, and to see a squirrel running around leaving tracks in it. I do like that. And being in warm bed and looking out the window to see snow falling—that’s a good feeling.
But I don’t want to go outside.
I don’t want to be near it. I don’t want to walk on it. But most of all I don’t want to drive in the snow. I don’t want to drive when it’s snowing. I don’t want to knock snow off my windshield. When it’s stopped snowing but it’s still in the street, I’m nervous. Even when the streets have been plowed but there’s still snow by the side of the road, I’m sort of afraid I’ll glance at it and be distracted at the wrong time.
Oh, and I’m nervous about other drivers. I’m worried they don’t know how to drive in the snow (unlike me, of course) and they’ll crash into me.
Anyway, I get nervous and uncomfortable when I’m out in the snow. I’d rather stay home. Or get someone else to drive. It’s easier when it’s in the early morning heading to the gym. There aren’t a lot of cars out then and when there aren’t a lot of cars out most of my concerns fade away.
Why am I telling you all this, and presenting myself as some kind of nervous wreck?
I want to tell you how I manage this. There’s a technique I like to do called the Healing Breath. It’s a practice that helps me be more present in whatever situation I’m in, so that I don’t get carried away by worries. I’ve written about this practice before because I really like it, and also…I don’t see other people talking about it very often.
It’s a very simple practice and you can do it any time. It’s done like this:
Slowly breathe in, mentally counting to five.
Hold your breath, mentally counting to five.
Slowly breathe out, mentally counting to five.
There are different versions of this that recommend different numbers for the counting, but five is what I prefer. So, if you’re practicing my method, a single breath should take 15 seconds. And I like to repeat this three times.
This brings me into the present moment. Nothing makes you focus on the breath quite like not breathing for a few seconds. So, I use it to center myself and come back to the here and now. It works incredibly well and I encourage you to try it, especially if you struggle with anxiety like me.
There is another thing that I think about.
There was this Zen teacher named Ikkyu in Japan in the 1400s who has been a big inspiration to me and you should look him up. There’s one quote of his in particular and I’m trying to use it to shift my perspective a little.
He said, “Learn to listen to the love letters sent by the wind and the rain, the snow and the moon.”
Now, in context Ikkyu was using this to say that we should take it easy with all the arguments and philosophical speculation that we’re engaging in. He’s saying something along the lines of that cliché “Stop and smell the roses.”
The world is showing us that it’s amazing every day. I’d like to learn to look at things like snow and rain with a sense of wonder instead of irritation. It’s certainly hard sometimes.
But if we take a moment to think about it…snow is amazing. This soft substance falls from the sky and covers everything. Nature reminds us that we aren’t in control. Not only that, but we’ve been seeing the preparation. Leaves changed color and fell from trees months ago. And birds flew south, sensing the approach of a long cold season.
I remember one year when I was a teenager we had a heavy snow in October (a very rare event here). The trees weren’t ready and I saw snow stick to the leaves and make the branches fall. There were fallen tree branches all over the city for days. I am grateful I had the opportunity to see exactly why the leaves fall every year.
This is an amazing cycle and if I can get out of my own way and pay attention to it, then I’ll feel better about the snow.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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