“For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.”
Lord Byron, “So, We’ll Go No More A-Roving”
My across-the-street neighbors hung their outdoor Christmas lights right after Thanksgiving. I was still in autumn-harvest mode, so it felt a bit too early for me. But my son and daughter-in-law also decorated their house for Christmas that weekend – and for good reason. She’s a manager in retail, working at a mall, so if she decorates at home early in the season, she has at least a few minutes to sit and enjoy a bit of holiday peace before she gets caught up in the melee of shopping season and all the work hours it requires of her.
In spite of cards and carols announcing “Peace On Earth,” we’re often personally overwhelmed and anxious during end-of-the-year holidays. But “the heart must pause to breath.” And that’s what I encourage you to do to maintain – or regain – peace and joy in this season.
One practice that helps me is consciously, intentionally taking a moment or two to feel and listen to my breathing. When we do this, it focuses our attention on a movement that began and sustains life. Breathing, as necessary as a heartbeat, is so basic that if you already practice conscious (or mindful) breathing, you’re probably rolling your eyes. Stay with me, though. For some of us, it’s new, and even if it’s not, it never hurts to gain a fresh perspective on the practice.
Take a few seconds right now to consciously breathe in and out as you draw your thoughts away from the past, away from the future, and into the present moment. Listen. Feel. You might think of the cycle of breath as symbolic: inhale and receive, exhale and give (which is the way David Whyte describes it). Or think of it as Muriel Rukeyser suggests: “Breath-in experience, breath-out poetry.” Or think of the ancient word for breathing: inspire. Or in-spirit. Inhaling is, then, in-spiriting.
This month, try to take a few moments each day to reel yourself in from the rushing world. (Focused breathing may be especially helpful in traffic or in a checkout line at the mall.) Breathe into yourself love and hope; breathe out to the world peace and grace.
Nourish peace, cultivate lovingkindness, and carry the calm.
Shadow of the Week – a toy ship:
Nature photo of the week – winter-blooming mahonia:
Text and photos © 2014 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.