Just Breathe


He (sic My father) used to hold his breath and pass out on the streets of Tokyo where his parents were Presbyterian Missionaries. I think he was a little angry: Held breath is the ultimate withholding; you’re not taking anything in, you’re not putting anything out. – Anne Lamott, Plan B Futher Thoughts on Faith.

Has it really come to this?

Freud will have a field day.

I’m having a field day.

Every year I pray and meditate and choose a new word, or scripture verse or phrase for the coming year. After two weeks of semi-fasting from the internet, prayer, retreat, and journaling THE word that resounds in my deepest of spirit for 2012 is “Breathe.”

It’s not that I’m disappointed really , okay maybe a little, it’s just that most years my phrases have been, well I’ll just say it, more encouraging than something as simple as “breathe.”

Here is an example of what I mean:

  • 2003 when I just began working in a church -– Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  • 2004 (Isaiah 41:9) – “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’: I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
  • 2005 – My word was forgiveness and letting go. It was truthfully a year spent grieving the loss of friends through death and learning how to forgive others. It was a dark night of the soul kind of year for me. I deleted all my writings and former blogs and got about the busy work of recovering from severe depression.
  • 2006 – “Baptize me, oh Lord, to the criticism of man, that I might one day become immune to it.” – Beth Moore
  • 2007 – Hebrews 10:35-36 – “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded, you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”
  • 2008 – Romans 31-39 – “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • January 1, 2009 – Ephesians 3:17-19. “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – that was a year of exploring what it meant to LIVE with Intention. A year of celebration. It was also the year that I started doing stand up comedy and intentionally studying and growing my gifts/abilities as a speaker.
  • 2010 –  “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” – I spent a year studying ancient liturgy under the auspices of a local pastor and reading authors such as St Augustine.
  • 2011 – Live with Intention which for me translated to Love/Laughter Inspiration Volunteering Encouragement/excercise. – okay notsomuch on the exercise thing, but the rest – I totally nailed that.
  • 2012 – I get one word. Breathe.

 I’m not really amused. My ego wants something grander or more grand whichever than breathe. I want something that will make people stand on their heads and listen to me as if I were EF Hutton himself. “Breathe.” feels so bourgeois really. So ordinary. I’m an artist and a poet, I don’t want to be ordinary I want to be captivating. Shooting a loving smile at my artsy fartsy neurotically insecure yet comical self – Grown up me responds – Yeah well suck it up baby girl — you get to be real this year. Welcome to planet earth. – Grown up me can be a real downer sometimes can’t she?

When I think about it though, it’s actually pretty deep. Held breath IS the ultimate withholding just like Anne writes. I can’t help but wonder, how often do you or I forget to breathe in the moments of life? I hold my breath a lot. Beauty can capture my breath, so can anger and fear. All last week I dreamt nightly of people trying to hug me and my holding my breath. I would write it off as just a silly little dream (or three) but then last night someone I hadn’t seen in a few years grabbed me in a spontaneous hug and — you guessed it – I held my breath until they let go.

I really forgotten how to breathe. No wonder my gut is a mess and my shoulders are in my ears. I will have you know that this doesn’t come as some great and welcomed epiphany. This self-knowledge comes to me with bits and spurts of denial and a great deal of fighting back. While I know how I feel about this new word that landed in my heart, I’m not sure what to think yet – and so I simply offer some thoughts by some of my favorite poets on this whole “breathe” business.

To one who has been long in city pent,
‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, – to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
~John Keats, Sonnet XIV

He lives most life whoever breathes most air.  ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You know that our breathing is the inhaling and exhaling of air.  The organ that serves for this is the lungs that lie round the heart, so that the air passing through them thereby envelops the heart.  Thus breathing is a natural way to the heart.  And so, having collected your mind within you, lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there.  ~Nicephorus the Solitary

 Now — tell me, how was your Christmas? What did you do? Did you have a good New Years? Do you make resolutions or do you pick words or phrases for the year? Please drop a comment and let me know. Thanks.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. January 1, 2012. No goods or services were given in exchange for quoting Anne Lamott — I just totally dig her vibe as an author – thought you might too. — and yes son, I really used the words “dig’ and “Vibe” in a blog post. HA!

3 thoughts on “Just Breathe

  1. “Just Breathe”…Genesis 2:7, God “Breathed” life into man. The word in whatever form is used only 20 times throughout the Bible (NIV). Breathing is performed by a thin muscle that lies between the thoracic and abdominal cavities, called a diaphragm. The entire process of breathing is more than just inhaling and exhaling. It goes much deeper than that. If breathing ceases, life ceases. We must allow God to breathe life into our souls at all times, otherwise our souls are deprived of the essential “nutrients” that allow us to function spiritually. I like your word for 2012.

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