How Turning My Morning Stroll Into A Meditation Reminded Me Of My Worth & Power
One recent spring morning, I ventured out for a rare walk alone to enjoy the emerging changes in nature. It had been raining for what seemed like months, and I needed to get out of the house. It was just after 7 a.m. on a Sunday, and everyone was still sleeping.
I filled my travel mug with coffee, slipped on some clothes, and descended the steps from our apartment. The whole building was hushed. Outside, the air was crisp. Light from the hiding sun played peekaboo, causing a chill that kissed my bare arms. I should've worn a sweater, I thought.
The earth smelled of petrichor and sweetgrass, and it was a good morning to get up and move my body. Our neighborhood was quiet, almost eerily so. I almost felt like my slurps of coffee were going to wake the world up from its slumber.
I inhaled deeply for what felt like the first time in months and was immediately struck by the fact that I was alive. Being intentional about my breath and staying present isn't something I am good at. I often forget to stop and be in the moment.
There have been instances since being a mother of more than one child that I've longed to feel at home in my skin without grappling for tangible moments to cling to and remember. This particular walk reminded me of life's ease and small mercies.
I was in tune and aligned. The silence was so amplified that noises around me sounded like they were in high definition. Grasshoppers, birds, rustling leaves, the swinging wooden fence of the flower garden nearby—everything had its own music.
As I walked, I listened and took deep breaths.
In through my nose—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Out through my nose—10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
I was mindful of the rise and fall of my belly, the sensation swirling through my body, and the audible breeze following me. I was starting to feel at home, lighter, and more capable of "being here now" than I had been in months. It was almost as if before that lone morning, I was holding my breath.
My stroll became a moving meditation, one step at a time filled with intention and appreciation. As I explored the neighborhood, I felt extremely privileged to be alive and in motion and in tune with the air circulating through my body. Perhaps that's the reminder I needed: to make time for myself and learn how to breathe again, unrushed and on purpose.
Discovering how to take care of myself has been a challenge—but this morning walk reminded me that I am deserving.
I still have moments when it feels forgotten. The women I knew and saw around were always taking care of other people, rarely themselves. Their faces and backs looked heavy with worry and concern for everyone but themselves, longing for relief and reprieve. Especially the mothers.
I didn't want that to be me. I didn't want life to feel so heavy and laden with guilt for taking a second to breathe. I'm still learning the practice of harmonizing my time and prioritizing my needs. Society sends the message that women are to bend until broken and then find ways to get back up again while in pieces.
Finding my breath during the hush of the morning encouraged me to stop overextending and start preserving some of myself for just me without guilt or shame or wondering whether it—or I—was worthy.
Instead of mentally sprinting through life, I stopped, slowed down, and expressed gratitude for all that was surrounding me.
You deserve this, I said to myself. So, as I continued to walk, I gave myself permission to be fully present with anything and everything that came to the surface. Pleasant and unpleasant. And whenever I wanted to run, I decided to stand still and breathe.
When is the last time you were in tune with your breath? Stop what you're doing and take five deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your nose. Feel the rise and fall of your belly. Extend gratitude for your life. Even if things aren't all good, be proud that you've made it this far and feel into this gentle reminder:
I can lean deep into my existence by deciding to breathe and be in the present moment.
I am deserving of my time, company, and energy.
Reprinted from After the Rain by Alexandra Elle, with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020.
Alexandra Elle is an author & wellness consultant living in the Washington, DC metro area with her husband and children. Writing came into her life by way of therapy and the exploration of healing through journaling. Quarterly, Alex teaches workshops and retreats centered around assisting others in finding their voices through storytelling, poetry, and narrative writing rooted in truth without shame. Her mission is to build community & self-care practices through literature & language. She is currently an author at Chronicle Books.