It's midnight. The dog needs to go out. I stumble through the house, fumble with his crate. The kitchen floor is ice under my sleep-warm feet. I open the door. Winter exhales right in my face and my goosebumps push back against the cold. The dog goes out.
The dog comes in.
I tuck him back into his crate and tumble back into my own covers. I close my eyes.
But sleep must have slipped out the open door and gotten stuck in the snow somewhere. My mind decides to stay sitting up in bed, wringing its hands in the dark.
Say the word aloud: it sounds like spinning wheels. Questions that poke into the past and prod into the future. Places where a midnight mind never belongs.
It's nothing. It's everything. I toss. I turn. It takes me a long time to remember what to do.
Deep and downreaching. Slow and the single most important thing in the room.
I am surprised how different a deep breath feels. Shallow breaths are constricted, pressured, urgent, demanding. Deep breaths are full of space in all directions. In all dimensions -- even time feels more open.
My mind fights against my breath. It wants to keep spinning tightly, winding more and more questions, predictions, and admonishments around my chest until I am crushed.
But my breath is patient, stretching at the bindings until my thoughts float above the surface of my skin and sleep settles back in, a cushion between my body and mind.
Everything goes quiet.
In the morning, everything is fine. Of course it is. But I am reminded again how easily I forget about my breath. I'd like to remember it more often.
This is something I have to practice.