When I am rushing around trying to get all the things done that seem so urgent, or twirling around in my mind the circumstances in which I find myself that feels overwhelming or impossible to endure, I find that I am nearly holding my breath, my breathing is so shallow. Because I am so focused on everything I’m concerning myself over I cycle through inhalation and exhalation at the minimum to . . . still be breathing.
Jesus told his disciples, “I came that you might have life, and that you might have abundantly.” When I am breathing in this way, I am clearly not abundantly breathing, and in this way I cut off the life-giving potential my body has with the kind of breath my body was intended to receive. It is also evidence of my lack of belief that there is this More Than that is mindful of me, and mindful of each person that intersects my life—even the ones that are the source of my distress. The poet Rumi wrote:
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably
It is the very unexpectedness of joys and meannesses that disturb us. So today’s breathing practice will be about acknowledging those stressful things in our lives—they are very real and just as present—seeing them for what they are, welcome them as part of your day, your formation, and breathing past them in these moments. In doing so, you might find it easier to think about those situations a little differently. I will revisit that last point in a later episode. For today, let us focus on the essential act of breathing.
Remember to consider that the words breath and spirit are often used interchangeably in sacred texts, and by breathing you acknowledge the spirit of God present in you and around you.
One of the most helpful breathing exercises for me, a shallow upper-chest breather, is to be attentive to breath filling the lower part of my lungs – evidence of which is the expansion in my belly. If you are helping a child pay attention to breathing in this way, a useful technique is to ask the child to lie down and place a favorite stuffed animal on her belly, or a small pillow on his stomach. You are welcome to do the same if that is appealing to you and you are in a suitable space. Otherwise, you may place your hands with fingers interlaced on your abdomen if you are lying down or back against a chair (or one hand if you are driving, or standing in line, etc).
As you breathe in a steady breath allow your belly to press against your hands.
Notice the tension of your fingers as they begin to pull apart as you breathe in.
Feel the fingers nudge back together as you breathe out.
As you draw in another deep breath, Notice how your shoulders pull back and down.
While pushing out the air trapped deep in your belly Accept the loosing of your neck.
Breathe in, expanding your abdomen.
Breathe out, pressing today’s sense of urgency out of the body.
Breathe in, the abundant space that is life – transcending time.
Breathe out an expression of faith that the Source of life makes all things well. All will be well. All is well.
Throughout the day and stick with the one that is easiest to use given where you are (alone, in a car, at work, in a stressful conversation, etc.)
As always, resources used in these episodes, along with the transcript can be found on my website: eirenicole.com
And today, may you walk at the pace of grace.
“Meditation,” violin: composed and performed, by, Kaaron Waltz Gross
Ukulele, performed, by Samantha Snyder. Bird chirping, performed, by Balinese birds.