walk softly and take a deep breath

Sandals in gardenI am having trouble with my downstairs neighbor. He would say he is having trouble with me. He has complained that I am too noisy, primarily that he can’t take my walking back and forth in my apartment (which I do a lot, as I work at home). For the past few days, I have been unable to take a step without thinking of him, and wondering if…. My emotions vacillate between anger, worry and catastrophizing. But this morning I had a new thought.

The irony of all this is that I have been aware lately that I have been more nervous that usual, more anxious, more tense. I am aware that the disruption, destabilization and disasters around our world are disturbing me. What can I do? And I am left with a bundle of emotions inside, and very little sense of power to change anything.

So I have been working with my breath, trying to remember to keep breathing as I do other things. When I think… keep breathing. When I move my arm… keep breathing. When I read an email, keep breathing. It is amazing me how often I catch myself holding my breath.

In a way, it is not surprising, as I believe we are all doing a little breath-holding these days, waiting to see what transpires in the many vulnerable places in the world. But when it becomes a habit, as it has in me, the entire body is affected. My movements become less fluid, more abrupt. My thoughts and emotions get stuck. And I would imagine that my steps become heavier. So today, as I watch my breath throughout the day, I am watching my steps as well.

As individuals we may feel powerless, but we are not. To begin to perceive myself as powerful in the world begins with the simple reminder that my natural relationship to life is as a creator. This changes everything. It also shifts our perceptions of right and wrong, good and bad.

The process of dissolution is essential to the process of creation, because old forms must die to release the energy for new forms to be created. Then even those whose role in the world is destruction play a creative role. Even the neighbor downstairs, who has caused me to examine my everyday life, is part of my evolution.

Our relationship to the earth teaches us so much about ourselves. Just as other people offer us the opportunity to look at and amend things in ourselves that hold us back, so the world today is offering us this as a species.

Today I can see the plan and all our parts in it. And today, it makes me grateful. In losing touch with my breath, I had lost touch with body and with myself. I had fallen out of love with my life. And life is too sacred to not appreciate it. One day I will not be here. One day perhaps, this planet may too be gone, or may return to some dormant state that will not support life. Will we have regrets?

In the last months of my mother’s life, she was very ill. I knew that I wanted to do whatever was necessary not to have regrets when she was gone. So I left my home and my work and went to live with her. Her dying process lasted six months. It was difficult. She suffered a lot. But our relationship evolved farther in those six months than all the 40 years before. She needed me, and I was there. And through that experience she gave me her final gift; she showed me the kind of love I was capable of. That love is the most creative force in the world. We hold its power in our breath and in how we walk through our lives.

Every one of us, great and small, plays a part in creating this world. Just for today, let us take responsibility for our part. Let us breathe deeply to connect with the creative force of life in us. And let us, just for today, walk a little more softly on the Earth.

Reader Interactions


  1. Faye says

    problems with your neighbours about walking? me too! what do they want us to do – install a pulley system so we haul ourselves around with our arms?
    But after being mad at my neighbours for so long, I was inspired by your ‘walk more softly’ idea. How lovely! after all, life is sweet and we should not let our angry neighbours’ consciensness enter in our universe.
    Thanks Katherine for your creative, soft thoughts.

  2. Katherine says

    Oh, I’m sorry for you! I really have no idea how he is doing down there, but I am more serene about it all this way. There’s a great Navajo prayer that might just fit here: “Above me peaceful, BELOW me peaceful, before me peaceful, behind me peaceful, all around me peaceful, all around me peaceful, all around me peaceful.” Sweet dreams, Faye!

  3. Faye says

    lovely prayer, i feel calmer as i read it. I had a ‘mediator’ round tonight about the neighbour problem and she has nothing nearly as good as that.

  4. Katherine says

    Evidently today, according to my neighbor, “les choses ont beacoup changée” now. Go figure. Silent flip flops and little felt thingies on the legs of my chairs have made us both more peaceful, I think! Actually, I think it was the willingness that did it for me. Good luck, Faye, and keep us posted.