“Mindfulness is the space between action and response.”

Wow, that struck a chord, especially for me, since I can be such a reactionary person. Mindfulness means space. Means allowing ourselves to have the space to process and observe before we choose how to react. I spoke about panic attacks the other day, and have discovered that this space of mindfulness can have a real, powerful impact on the nature of those attacks.

During Yoga the other day, I felt like my lungs stretched out and my heart cracked open, ballooning up and almost floating away from me.

This next part sounds weird, even to myself. I’m not much one for visions or crystals or whatever, so for a moment I even cried bull shit on my own experience.

But when my heart felt like that and my body felt that in tune with my breath and with my spirit, I saw a mandala. A burst of precise, geometric patterns radiating out of the center of my closed eyelids. Just the imprint, the lines made of light. I hadn’t felt so plugged in and connected in a long time. It felt like I could breathe through my heart space.

That’s when the panic attack burst forth, as they so often do when I’m most relaxed. You know, that space between asleep and awake. The deepest space of meditation. Apparently that intense level of stillness and relaxation is where we tap into our deepest and most inner trauma.

I burst through the mandala of my closed eyes and into my life. My breath cut short, panic tightened around my chest, and I felt an intense desire to throw up or run away. I almost ran out the open door to let my panic lose in the bathroom, hidden away. I’ve never remembered having a panic attack in a yoga class before.

I can’t breathe deep, what do I do?! My brain shouted. My heart just couldn’t stay open anymore, it was too intense. I felt like collapsing down into child’s pose. My eyes started darting around and I could feel my vision clouding, searching for an escape route.

That’s when I did a radical thing for myself – I let my body have what it needs. I allowed my breath to shorten and my shoulders to hunch slightly, instead of trying to fight the impulse in order to maintain a solid, poised exterior and “look good” in my yoga class.

A tiny voice in my heart whispered, “You can do this” and started to repeat the mantra, growing a little louder with each repetition until this mantra replaced my breath as my primary focus.

Then I was fine.

This was my experience. Both the offbeat and weird and the panicked, scared, and strong.

And guess what? I CAN do this. All of it.

Knowing that felt pretty cool.


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