It is an intoxicatingly beautiful early June morning. As I walk up the pathway, the cool breeze of dawn caresses my bare arms. The soft light filtering through the trees bathes me in its gentle glow. The birds sing sweetly—ever so strident yet melodious—and I feel their music waft through me. A woodpecker pecks staccato notes in the lofty reaches of a tree, but I cannot spy him. I smile as I envision his tap-tap-tap handiwork far above me. Pup pulls me to the right, and I follow patiently; the jingle of his collar’s metal tags mingles, bell-like, with the sounds of nature.
My walk this morning is a meditation of a new sort for me. I have found myself leaving my music at home now and again. I have enjoyed this return to the natural sounds that used to be so familiar to me on my walks. Music had, at times, remained a haunting muse; at other times I had used her to drown out my own thoughts and—during difficult times—my inner turmoil. Now, I am exploring a breathing meditation as I walk. Today, I have chosen a meditation of breath infused with thoughts of love, kindness, and compassion. As I walk, I bring my attention to the feel and sound of my own breath. I breathe in new air, fully and deeply. I breathe in the sweetness of life, of the dawn, and the gifts that surround me. I exhale the spent air, the very air that also feeds the greenery about me. Breathe in, breathe out, expand, contract. I create a gorgeous melody of my own with the rise and fall of my breath. My footsteps fall with gentle briskness, and pup patters along beside me. He peers up at me, and I gaze down at him. He knows I am up to something new. His bright, copper eyes shine at me, and he wags his tail in patient understanding.
We continue up the hill, and my breath warms me as I walk. I can feel my core heating gradually, and I slowly exhale my breath into the cool spring air. I shift my focus purposefully. I breathe in sweet thoughts of love and kindness for myself, and I exhale fully and deeply. I can feel my heart expand; compassion fills the air. I continue on, and my pace is steady and sure. I shift my intention to those loved ones closest to me; I breathe in and out, soaking my thoughts of them with vibrant love and beauty.
Turning a bend, two young deer await. The pair stands frozen and watchful; they sensed me far before I saw them. Pup halts, his nose scenting the air. The larger of the two gentle creatures leaps into the brush. The younger one stares at us, her eyes wide and alert. Pup does not pull, but waits attentively. I gaze at the beautiful doe in silent respect. She turns and silently vanishes into the brush.
I return to the metronome of my breath. I feel lightened by the glistening cloak of love that permeates the air around me and the sweet gentleness of love that rests within me. The more I have remained true to my intention of inviting love and kindness within and without, the more I have been infused with a sense of well-being and wonder. I devote my next course of breath work to my friends, to those who are close and those who are far. I continue, immersed in the wondrous power of my own breathing patterns. Breathe in, gentleness, love, and compassion. Breathe out, kindness, benevolence, and love. I notice my surroundings; I am surprised that I am nearing home. Time has vanished as I walked, as I focused on my breath and interior world.
Shifting my focus again, I now engage with my breath and thoughts on a new level. I know where I am going, and I know that I can “do this.” I breathe in deeply, infusing myself with thoughts of love and kindness. Now, it is time to breathe out, to send loving thoughts toward ones who have harmed me, toward the few who—out of fear, anger, or ignorance—have been cruel and unkind. I want to send love and healing to those who have acted with the intention of causing me pain. I breathe out, offering thoughts of love and kindness. The meditation is working, and I can feel my love blossoming. I breathe in, invoking love and compassion. I breathe out, sending healing warmth and loving wishes that their worlds are graced by health and beauty. And my heart stops. I can feel it close. It stops here. I am surprised and humbled by my failure, finding small comfort in the success of having tried. I cannot make it continue, that loving breath. I know I can pretend, I can say the words, but I know I do not feel them. I cannot feel the healing love toward them that I so want to feel. Tears nipping at my eyes, I realize it is because I am not ready—quite yet—to truly feel that depth of letting go, of loving compassion, of release. My cloak of love remains about me, but now I feel a cap of humility and sorrow rest upon my head.
I have work to do. I have loving to do. I have learning to do. I do not want my heart to stop here. I do not want my love to stop here. A day will come, and I sense it is not too far away, when I will be walking, and breathing, and sending love and heartfelt blessings even to—or possibly especially to—those who I cannot embrace with healing love today. My heart will not stop here.