“Take a breath.”

“Calm down, and take a deep breath.

“In through the nose, slowly out through your mouth.”

“Breathe …please just breathe.”

For years, I have been begging my kids to breathe through their feelings – their big, messy, tear-filled feelings. I have walking into the middle of screaming matches, hauled kids out of bedrooms after doors have slammed, and I have watched each of them wind themselves up so tight their faces begin to turn red and pinched.

So, I remind them to breathe.  But every time they resist. Every – single – time

They fight this advice like it is bad tasting cough medicine. Instead they grasp at words and try to force them out through tensed up lips, they resist any effort which might stop them from trying to cram every breadth of space with reasons why they are so very upset and justified and ultimately …right. As if by overwhelming the quiet, they will overpower all sense before silence has a chance to fill up the space with reflection.

And so I begin again with “Breathe” and together we gradually work our way through the balled up helter-skelter feelings. We take a breath and slow down and start again. Trying again, but this time, breathing through the feelings, letting the emotions expand and fill out so that we can recognize them and name them, letting their fullness come into focus, and then together we let them go like overfilled balloons, letting them fizzle and shrink and look a little silly.

Mediation is a mothering task which has taken me some time to grow into- I learned it on the back of parenting toddlers and babies and preschoolers who were unequipped to deal with mum’s feelings and therefore the only adult in the room had to re-evaluate how she was managing her own self – she had to learn to breathe through her own messy, balled up feelings or explode. You would think I had it all mastered by now.

And then… something comes along and strikes a nerve, sets off my internal “rightness” button, or my “but I have a thing or eight to say about that” switch, or the “I can’t believe I think they think this thing about me” toggle. And off I go, usually internally, ranting and arguing and justifying or just plain conjuring things out of thin air which seem to support my internal feelings. I fill the space in my head with all kinds of imagined slights and hurts and injustices. I cram any and all perspectives out the window and slam it shut, rebreathing my own stale, mostly foul air. When finally I can’t keep up the internal waves of feelings –when the space is so stuffed up with me that there is no air – I sputter to a stop – hurting, aching.

And a still and quiet voice says:

“Take a breath.”

“Calm down, and take a deep breath.”

“In through the nose, slowly out through your mouth.”

“Breathe …please just breathe.”

And as soon as new air enters, something changes – a lightness comes in again – reminds me to look carefully, to name the feelings for what they are, to let them go like crazed overfilled balloons… again.

Reluctant child – I am. Reluctant children – they are. But then compassion fills the heart space between us and together we can rest in knowing that we are loved with a greater love, one which breathes life into our dry, obstinate bones.

Breath enters our lungs the moment we hit the cold dry world – and our first impulse is to cry because it is a foreign thing – to let the lightness into ourselves, to have it fill us up, nurture our bodies, our hearts, our minds. We fight it and yet we cannot deny it.

Today the #wholemama word is: breath.  Follow me over to Overflow to read more stories from lovely #wholemama storytellers.