Breathe In, Breathe Out

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kathy-escobar-breathe3

Breathe in God’s peace.”

“Breathe out your anxiety and fear.”

“Breathe in God’s peace.”

“Breathe out your anxiety and fear.”

Years ago when I was at Denver Seminary working on a certificate in spiritual direction, this was a small exercise my professor—an 80-year-old theologian who had a radical shift in his faith experience—shared with us. I will always remember this simple exercise and the tenderness in his voice. Simple. Profound. Healing.

And one of the hardest things to practice.

It also makes me think of the words of my yoga teacher (I’m the student who goes to class every six months or so, even though I need it daily): “If there’s only one thing you practice here, it should be breathing. Breathing changes more than we know.”

Breathing.

Take in what we need.

Let out what we don’t.

Over and over this pattern keeps us alive.

It happens involuntarily, and I’m glad for that.

But I also know what can happen inside my soul when I actually notice it. When I take time to slow down, notice my breath, breathe in, breathe out, still the churn, and get in touch with what’s going on inside of me instead of just going through the motions.

Why is it so hard for me?

Why do I always forget this basic skill?

Why do I not begin to practice it until I’ve already been completely jarred by some weird experience and know I need to do something to settle down, to get to a place of some kind of peace?

Why is it the last place I go for relief instead of the first?

I think it’s because I’m human. I have all kinds of other protective mechanisms that kick in first and I just … forget.

But this holiday season (a season of great turmoil and angst and pain in the USA post-election), I really want to try to remember this simple practice in my day-to-day.

I need it if I’m going to make it through. This election—the reality and what it means for not only our country but for so many people I know—has really been a deep pain for me. I am starting the next four years tired but I am committed to playing whatever part I can in hope and change.

However, I am well aware I won’t last unless I keep doing what I can to take care of myself.

And a lot of that starts with breathing.

Yes, breathing.

That simple practice that I always forget.

“Breathe in God’s peace.”

“Breathe out anxiety and fear.”

My guess is that a lot of you might be like me and have things you need to breathe in and breathe out this holiday season.

“Breathe in God’s hope. Breathe out despair and darkness.”

“Breathe in courage. Breathe out fear and smallness.”

“Breathe in mercy. Breathe out unforgiveness and hostility.”

“Breathe in peace. Breathe out division and anger.”

“Breathe in vulnerability. Breathe out self-protection and defensiveness.”

“Breathe in energy and strength. Breathe out what wears us down.”

“Breathe in humility. Breathe out pride and self-righteousness.”

“Breathe in creativity. Breathe out the critic’s mean voice.”

“Breathe in a sense of rest. Breathe out the frantic.”

And the one I always come back to:

“Breathe in God’s peace.”

“Breathe out anxiety and fear.”

What do you need to breathe in? Exhale and let go of?

I know it’s not a 1-2-3, voila! All of the hard feelings are gone.

But this simple practice has more punch in it than we probably give credit to.

Last Christmas I created a short breathe in and breathe out mantra at The Refuge’s Blue Christmas gathering. It went like this:

“I will be rooted and grounded in peace.” (Breathe in.)

“No matter what this season brings.” (Breathe out.)

I tried to practice it all of December, and I will tell you—it helped. Did I feel rooted and grounded in peace all month? Um, yeah, no. But did I have something to draw back on when I could feel the ground underneath me start to crumble? Yes. And it helped.

I did have to pause.

I did have to notice.

I did have to make space for it.

But there’s no question—it did help me make it through.

This season I am working on what I might specifically need to breathe in and breathe out to honor the realities of this particular time with its own unique circumstances. I don’t have it clarified yet but it’s something along the same lines.

SheLoves friends, this season, may you find a way to breathe.

And may that breath somehow bring life, peace, hope, courage and strength in the midst of whatever you are going through.

That’s my hope for you, my hope for me, my hope for us.

“Breathe in God’s peace.”

“Breathe out anxiety and fear.”

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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  • Kathy, this is self-care, this is healing. It’s as if something snapped in me and shifted gears to mindfully slowdown. I read the holiday breathing exercise as a prayer. Thank you. Thank you.

    • thanks for sharing and yes, it is so healing for me, too.

  • Saskia Wishart

    I love this Kathy! Yoga has really helped me move to this awareness of breathe as a prayer. That, and a teaching by Brennan Manning years ago. Something we can never be reminded of enough. Xx

    • yeah, i love that yahweh prayer. abba, i belong to you…

  • “Rooted and grounded in peace no matter what the season brings.”
    What a beautiful reminder that my bedrock is a gift from God — not something I’m trying to manufacture on my own. May we sink our roots deep into that peace for all seasons.

    • thanks, michele. yeah, that really grounded me last year. tonight we have our blue christmas gathering again and that station will be up. i’m interested to see what will come for this year!

  • Absolutely love this!! Will try to slow down long enough to remember this jewel 🙂 x

  • Sandy Hay

    Excellent Kathy.

  • pastordt

    LOVE this, Kathy. Thank you. This is the single most helpful practice/discipline I know anything about.

  • Thanks for this. Much Love to you! Merry Christmas.

  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    So good, Kathy! I’m printing this off and posting it next to my calendar (yes, I still use a paper calendar on my kitchen wall so we don’t fall into utter chaos in this house!) this month. I know i’ll need this reminder for sure!

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