The Art of Breathing

IMG_0842My pastor said today, “I think most of you do a lot more breathing out than breathing in.” Think about that for a minute.

I’ve posted a lot here in recent days about all I’m going to be doing in 2013, and I’ll bet your Day Planners are full, your goals are set, you’ve been squeezing in the gym or a run (or if you live somewhere a lot more pleasant at the moment than I do, a nice brisk bike ride or walk). You’ve checked things off your to-do list, maybe spent time organizing your home or office. Basically, since you recovered from New Years, you’ve been off and running.

The above observation goes along with something I wrote recently for a guest blog, in answer to the question, “What tradition do you wish we still kept?” My answer was Sunday as a day of rest. It used to be that everything was closed on Sundays (except the movie theater and the Chinese restaurants). Whether you went to church or not, you got to have a day off. Maybe you hung out with your family and had a traditional Southern “Sunday dinner”. Maybe you read the latest bestseller, did yard work, went to the beach or the lake. Maybe you took your kids to the movie or got Chinese takeout.  Because your options were limited, so was your activity. And that was a good thing for stress, families, and just plain old sanity.

Now, even when it’s not a brand new year, we are off and running all the time. There is nowhere, other than Chick Fil’A and the doctor’s office, that I couldn’t go right now, virtually nothing I couldn’t do on Sunday. Do my grocery shopping? Yep. Shop at the mall? Sure. Workout at the gym? I plan to in an hour. Hardware store? Drug store? Target and WalMart? Heck, you can go to a lot of these 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 (or close) days of the year. Life doesn’t stop.

Add in your cell phone, your smart phone or iPad/tablet, your laptop, your wifi card, and your printer/scanner/fax, and you can work all the time, from anywhere in the world. (Trust me, I go to Uganda twice a year, and even on safari in the middle of nowhere I can get texts and phone calls!) My future son-in-law has been on call all week, and he’s had calls 4 nights out of 6. Sure, he gets paid extra, but the stress of worrying about a call (and worrying about sleeping through a call) keeps him from really sleeping even when he doesn’t get one, and he’s exhausted.

Breathing out.  We only breathe in during the quiet times. Watching the sunrise on a beach. Taking a walk, sans cell phone, with a child or spouse. Driving with no radio, no iPod, no nothing, just quiet. Even a long plane ride, if you’re not squooshed in the middle seat, can be a quiet respite.

Let’s agree to spend some time in 2013 breathing in. Let’s laugh, and have fun, and find quiet, and seek beauty, and just breathe. That’s hard in our modern age, and it takes at least as much commitment and dedication as going to the gym every day or sticking to a schedule for work. It might even be harder, because there’s no tangible reward. It doesn’t make your belly flatter, it doesn’t result in a cleaner house, it doesn’t mark anything off your to-do list. But we might just find that the benefits over the course of this next year are incalculable to our mental and emotional well being. To quote Mastercard, priceless.

I’m going to try it. How about you?

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