By Catherine Lillibridge
It seems simple enough – to take a deep breath and relax. But the faster my day-to-day goes, the less likely I am to remember to do it. When all my children grew up and moved out, I didn’t know how to relax. I had hoped to pick up my crafting hobbies again but found sitting still a challenge.
At home, I found myself in my kitchen snacking out of habit and boredom and couldn’t get projects done. I joined a rug-hooking group and began to learn to sit and listen, while my mind told me I “should be” doing other “productive” things. Then I joined a writing group and found support from other women and we wrote about light and heavy topics. I began to go to an exercise class where breathing is central to each move, and I sat with a few women and did silent prayer once a month.
I could have thrown up my hands and said, “I can’t be still, I can’t be silent, I must be productive.” But something within me said, “Please, please try.” It was hard and scary to not just get busy and involved and fill the new space created in my now empty home and heart.
Finding communities of women who are comfortable with group silence has taught me that I can breathe deeply and relax, whether in a crowd or at home. The added bonus for me has been a level of productivity that I didn’t know I would find. It seems that taking time to breathe and relax actually creates more time for being productive. This is a paradox, and learning through paradox makes me pause and realize the deeper lessons in life require slowing down!
Breathe Deeply and Relax
“In the Bible, the word for ‘breath’ is the same word as the word for ‘spirit.’ In Hebrew, God’s name is essentially four letters…YHVH. The ancient rabbis believed that . . . they were . . . essentially the sound of breathing. Is the name of God the sound of breathing?” – Rob Bell, NOOMA Breathe video
How many of us need a break but can’t slow down enough to fit it in our calendar? We don’t need to schedule it – all we need is a single, intentional breath to “break” the busy pattern of our day. Try it right now.
Notice your breath. Is your breathing shallow? Is hearing your own breathing foreign to you?
Are you scrunched over your desk or car steering wheel? Are you slouching and are your shoulders rounded forward? Do you feel stress?
Whether you are standing or sitting, position your body to let in a deeper breath. In this intentional position, take a deep breath, past your lungs and into your belly; then breath out as much air as you can. Do this three times. Sometimes this will make you yawn, which means you needed the intake of air.
Don’t underestimate the power of this simple, intentional and kind act. You have just taken a break and said the name of God.
Catherine Lillibridge is a member of St. David’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio TX. She has a ministry to women. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2013 edition of Reflections magazine. To read the entire issue, click here.
Use the breathing exercise Catherine suggests several times a day.
Remember that as you breathe, you say the name of God.