One Breath at a Time.

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“Beneath the heavenly equator in the valleys where the sweet and saline dew meet, there grows a huge poisonous fungus, and the tasty little edible mushrooms on its cap transform its contaminated blood into sweetness. The deer like to invigorate their masculine strength by nibbling these little mushrooms. But if they are careless and bite down too deep, they ingest some of the big poisonous fungus along with the little mushrooms, and then they die. Every evening, when I kiss my beloved, I think: it is only natural that one day I will bite down too deep….”

~ Milorad Pavic, Dictionary of the Khazars

“…don’t let them fool you with dope and cocaine;
Won’t do no harm to feel your own pain…

~ John Lennon, I Found Out

It takes only a few frustrating details to irreparably alter the most placid description. Memories make me ugly…sometimes. I know alcohol’s not an answer, nor even much of a question, but knowledge ain’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

There’s a song by Emmylou Harris called Boulder to Birmingham, about the death of her friend and mentor Gram Parsons. A line at the beginning of the second verse…well, you really got me this time…resonated strongly after my dad died. After so many years of messing with each others’ heads, in protracted and largely unconscious psychological warfare—him a licensed shrink, me, the son of a shrink who’d grown up learning to resist anything anybody else wanted me to do or to be like my life depended on it, which it kinda did—I’d say we were evenly matched…until he went and threw down the ultimate trump card.

Every couple years I quit coffee…temporarily…like, for a month or two—usually when it gets to the point that excessive caffeine seems to be keeping me awake and bothering my stomach. At this point, I’m long overdue. Sure, I’ve been down to one cup a day for the past couple weeks, but it’s still difficult to schedule that three day headache.

Last week somebody at the rehab called me an angel. I was trying to tutor her in writing, and, with just a couple reluctant sentences on paper, she put the pen down and vented to me for over an hour about how she missed her kids and how pissed off she was at their father. Apparently, I’d called her to come meet with me just after she’d gotten off the phone with him and was sitting with the other clients, pretending everything was okay. She said she felt she could tell me everything precisely because I’m not a therapist—that I was an angel God had sent, just when she needed me.

I was late to yoga class this morning (hate it when that happens). I walked in on everybody else “already in yoga class mode” while I was in “f*ck, I’m late to yoga class mode.” This was after 15 or 20 minutes in the car, getting pissed off at other drivers (speed up goddammit), I’m trying to get to my f*ckin’ yoga class…tryin’ to be more open n’ compassionate n’ sh*t…get outta the f*ckin’ way!

Maybe there’s a reason the women at the rehab can relate to me, even if I’ve never been addicted to cocaine or heroin. They’re struggling with the one day at a time thing. I’m working on one breath at a time and, thankfully, I get another chance, every couple seconds or so.

* a somewhat different version of this piece appeared a while ago at Yoga for Cynics*



Editor: Brianna Bemel

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About Jay Winston

Jay S. Winston, founder and proprietor of Yoga for Cynics (http://yogaforcynics.blogspot.com), has a PhD in English, making him the kind of doctor who, in case of life-threatening emergency, can explain Faulkner while you die, is currently (semi-)(un-)employed as a freelance writer and editor, teaches creative writing to homeless men, tutors recovering addicts in reading, was recently certified as a Kripalu yoga teacher, gets around mostly by bicycle, is trying to find an agent for his novel, resides in the bucolic Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, State of Mildly Inebriated Samadhi, U.S.A. and, like most people who bike and practice yoga, used to live in Boulder.


8 Responses to “One Breath at a Time.”

  1. Sophie says:

    Such a delight to read you. Thanks for that, really enjoyed it.

  2. benjywertheimer says:

    A wonderful read … many thanks!!

    Any chance you can help explain Faulkner to me while I'm still breathing?

    I also want to say how I admire your sharing your gifts with those who are incarcerated or homeless – I imagine that you come in contact with some absolutely incredible, often heart-wrenching stories on that path, yet I'm sure your facilitation is a great gift to those who receive it.

    Maybe we could also start a support group for recovering children of psychologists/psychiatrists … my dad's a professor of psych at CU …

  3. Yes! Every breath is an opportunity to start over. And I miss being closer to class so I can walk and avoid the pre-class-drive cursing…

  4. Nadine says:

    Yep, my absolute mantra!

  5. Suzette says:

    OMG!!! Short and tooo hilarious..I just laughed my way through this and I love dark humour!!! Because it's REAL….I hate being late for my yoga class toooooo!!!…. I'ts like "get out of the f*ckin' way people can't you see I'm in a hurry to frikken MEDITATE and if I'm late everybody will have had a head frikken start!!!!

    Thanks just goes to show how much alike we all really are!!!

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