Out of the Ordinary

I awaken into the new day.

Already my mind is considering all
that has been. Is contending with
all I might do or be needed to do.

Do I pause ... to ponder 
The ordered way land, sea and sky meet, as the
the sun peers through the trees
the clouds form and fold
the light sparkles on the lake
soft ripples hint of a soft breeze.

That my lungs fill with fresh air
perfectly composed to supply
blood, uniquely equipped to carry
cells, satisfied and content.

That my legs lift and support me,
step one foot to the other 
with balance on sturdy ground
that promises to carry me into the day.

Do I consider this ... the ordinary?
that the day will take shape
as it does and always has.
that intake of air 
will refresh again and again.
that gravity will have its way
as it has this day and every day.

This ordinary.
This gift.
This miracle.

Not guaranteed
Not promised
Not deserved

And yet, why?
why do I overlook it?
why do I suppose it?
why do I rush past it?
Why do I forget to give thanks?

In the anxious of always,
we've been given the ordinary
to make life out of.
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Take a Deeper Breath

I’m huffing and puffing my way up the steep rocky path toward the gorgeous mountain lakes my companion has promised lie ahead. It is Rocky Mountain National Park, after all. It’s no surprise that the air is thin, but this doesn’t hamper him. He lives a mile high and trains for triathlons in the parks, reservoirs and along the roads nearby.

“I could use a 10 second break,” I plead. He obliges and we step aside to let the nimble and altitude-acclimated bound on by. A few who pass by on their downward trek offer us an encouraging, “You’re doing great!”

As I pause, my friend says sympathetically and so simply, “I find it helps to take deeper breaths.”

At the suggestion, of course, I inhale a deep breath and then draw it deeper. And you know what? It worked! As we continued, when my breath quickened and my heart started to race on the steep parts, instead of huffing and puffing and pressing on so I wouldn’t seem like a wimp, I just expanded my lungs a bit deeper on each breath.

Deeper. Slower. Stronger. I’ve heard they call this combat breathing. I call it respite in the Rockies.

And, me being me, I find myself mind-meandering through my long-ago (and mostly far away) respiratory physiology classroom training. How does that work again? At higher altitude the partial pressure of O2 in the air and my lungs is lower… the sign at Pikes Peak said 60%, I believe, much lower than the 98% I am used to at sea level … which means that there is plenty of room for more O2 saturation in my blood stream. More inhalation means more air available which provides more O2 available to be exchanged. Right? And with lots more blood coursing through that pulmonary circulation thanks to my hardworking heart which was pumping fast and faster, my deeper breaths were DOing something!

Ok OK. Miraculous and scintillating as that science-speak is, what I am captured by as I look back on this trek that, yes, I survived, is the simplicity of “Take a Deeper Breath.” It reminds me…

You have reserves you don’t realize.

You have untapped flexibility and capacity you can call upon.

And BONUS! One good thing leads to another! Deeper breathing activates a whole (parasympathetic) neural reflex that triggers calming.

All this flies in the face of the push harder, exert more, breathe faster-shallower, hyperventilation scenario it seems our world inclines us to visit these days. Sure, quick, shallow breaths may work in a pinch (like in a panic attack) because, by allowing us to blow off extra CO2, they trick our brain into thinking we don’t need to breathe. Underwater divers make use of this at their own peril.

Pikes Peak Summit
Yes it does take your breath away!

But we, the anxious lot of us, adopt it in error and to our own disadvantage. We need to breathe. And rather than shallow, we need to go deeper. Rather than faster, we need to go slower. Deeper. Slower. By choice.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

How much of my day is spent reacting and responding with faster, faster? How much more capacity would I find if I replaced shallower with deeper? Faster with slower? What if I trusted that My Maker had already provided the means for me to climb the mountain? Any mountain? If only I listened to the voice of my capable companion?

As we ascended and came nearer to the mountain lake, those returning from their trek greeted us with smiles and happy shouts of, “You’re almost there!” How can you not smile at encouragement like that?!

Oh and the vistas did NOT disappoint.

Take a deeper breath. So simple.

I wonder what other resources one might discover in listening and complying with the voice of Wisdom and Experience while we climb this steep, rocky path called life…

The unraveling

Doesn’t it seem like there’s a good bit of unraveling going on?

What if that’s necessary? for our expression. our growth. for exerting our purpose in the world. What if that’s part of our design?

This I am wondering as I consider the strands of DNA that are the message of my very being. A double helix of instructions, entwined, coding, transcribed by the tools in place in every single one of my cells. A trillion different messages (or more? how many more?) who rely on an elegant but simple mechanism to be deciphered and read. They must be “unzipped,” unraveled, disentwined to expose their “base” patterns. So a simple train of partner bases can be aligned (job of the mRNA below) along their length, spelling out the message ripe for translating as the proteins necessary for the life work of the cell.

source: Sylvia Freeman

After the unraveling and transcribing, our single, separate DNA strands seek to return to their helical coil, finding their pair and resuming their partnership. This process is wholly dependent on the circumstance of the cytosol — the soupy environment of the cell. It’s highly regulated pH, is absolutely necessary — essential — for the bonds to reform, the reshaping to happen. For the DNA to return to its happy and successful life in the cell.

But what if the environment the unraveled DNA returns to is no longer conducive? if circumstances have changed. if the the pH is no longer welcoming. doesn’t recognize or remember its opposite strand. doesn’t extend its sites for binding because they are now hidden, tucked away, unavailable.

The magnificent DNA, with its elaborate coded plans, will now hover and float in the unforgiving cytosol, twisted but disconnected. It’s intended message mute. Searching for meaning. How hopeless that must feel. A strand of love. A strand of life. Gone their separate ways.

What if our DNA is trying to tell us something?

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