And then, I exhaled. I’m committed to learning to breathe deeply. This is more than a metaphor. I am a shallow breather. According to people who teach meditation,
When we breathe in a shallow way, the body remains in a cyclical state of stress—our stress causing shallow breathing and our shallow breathing causing stress. This sets off the sympathetic nervous system, the branch of the autonomic nervous system that primes us for activity and response.
“Shallow breathing doesn’t just make stress a response, it makes stress a habit…”from Headspace.com
I have existed in a cyclical state of stress for far longer than is healthy,
and it is both physical lesson and master class in faith. I believe that training myself, making it a discipline to actively trust God and get out of the Divine way will position me to breathe more deeply, because I am ceding my way to God.
Elihu, the young but wise upstart brave enough to challenge Job, reminds us of the power of the breath.
But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.Job 32:8-9 (NIV)
At my age, I should know better, right? It is the breath of the Almighty that gives understanding, and yet another reminder that I am nothing. I’d do best to get in line.
Among my favorites by Richard Smallwood is Nothing Without Your Love. At the end, the soloist declares,
Sin ti soya nada…Necesito tu amor, Senor. (I am nothing without You…I need Your Love, Lord)
Can’t do it without breathing; can’t do it without You, oh Lord. I have endured, not of my own choosing, a breath-holding six months, and then, I exhaled.
I wish I could remember sooner that it needn’t be so hard.
You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
– Psalm 30:11-12
The 30th Psalm, to which I return regularly, is part of the traditional Jewish service of morning prayers. Listing a myriad of reasons to be thankful including being lifted out of the depths (yes, please), healing (Lord, hear our prayers), the longevity of God’s Favor (yes, yes, and YAAAS), and the reminder that no matter how pressed down you are, God turns your mourning into dancing , your joy will have no end, ‘cause that’s how the Almighty do.
And now, I can exhale.
Tomorrow morning, during my morning commute, I will practice deep breathing. For years I’ve considered it, but I’m getting too old NOT to learn some new habits, and tomorrow is not promised.
I have been so pressed down for so long.
I have endured more than any reasonable person should have to (I do NOT question You, Sovereign God, BUT DAMN…), and because of it, I am changing. I’m leaving shallow breathing and all it represents behind. I’m done with stress and shallow breathing, I’ve got world-changing ish to do.
Today, midday, for the first time in half a year, I exhaled, and I liked it.
I’m going to do it again.