This past week, listening to the news around the world, I felt like I was living under a dark cloud.
- The ongoing war in the Ukraine.
- The number of people forcibly displaced due to violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ukraine, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo now numbers 100 million. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this number represents over 1% of the global population, and is equal to the 14th most populous country in the world!
- Monkeypox, another virus occurring in Canada.
- The killing of 19 fourth-grade children and two teachers, and wounding of 17 other people in Uvalde, Texas.
The magnitude of these events was hard to absorb. All I could do was to shrink my world to things I could control, like breathing. I start my weekly karate classes with a breathing exercise. It is meant to increase focus on the movement of our bodies and to renew energy for the upcoming workout. At times of stress, mindful breathing promotes calmness.
It goes like this:
- Stand with feet hip width apart, in a relaxed posture.
- Place both your hands on your belly. Close your eyes if you like – to focus your attention on this activity.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose. Feel your belly expand with the intake of air. Hold it in for a count of 4 – 6 seconds.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth, for a count of at least 4 – 6 seconds. It’s OK if you whistle or hum with your exhalation.
- Repeat four more times, trying to take deeper breaths and longer exhales.
I also focus on the positives in my life. The love of my husband of over forty years, and the caring of my extended family and friends.
I expressed my horror, uncertainty, helplessness, and sorrow through the painting featured above. Poppies for remembrance. Standing tall and straight like periscopes, vigilant. Bright, hopeful splashes of colour that even the darkest, stormiest skies, cannot diminish.
I hope you too can find hope. First, just breathe.