Tumbling in the Sand
Why is Lent—this time of introspection and growth, this time which is supposed to be about taking time, this time which is supposed to be about stripping away and wandering in the wilderness—so crazy busy??
I am looking at my calendar through the month of March and feeling a tad overwhelmed and stressed about it all, wondering how I’m going to get it all done. Almost every block has something written in it and I don’t even write down the regular, recurring stuff.
I’ve been reading a lot about anxiety and stress lately. Apparently, too much of these things can be affiliated with exhaustion (a little of it is good for you though, so don’t be too mellow—apparently the “don’t worry, be happy” generation has an unusually high mortality rate because they aren’t stressed enough). Also, anxiety and stress reduce our productivity, our creativity, our flexibility, and our concentration. I don’t know about you, but reading all of this makes me anxious. How am I supposed to be at my best (or even at my adequate) for all of this stuff packed into my schedule if I’m stressed about all that there is to do?
I was watching this great TED talk the other day by a neuro-guy who was talking about the importance of breathing. Not just breathing like you are doing right now, but breathing that is (let’s see if I can remember the acronymn): Regular, Even, And Through the Heart, Everyday. Note, it is most of the letters of the word “breathe.” I guess the b stands for breathe. I thought it was interesting, the guy didn’t advocate abdominal breathing, because filling your chest with air did a better job of calming your heart, which was kind of critical.
This kind of breathing is supposed to kind of even out your heart rate and allow your brain to function at it’s best.
I’m working on it.
Actually, I think breathing helps more than your heart and your brain. I think it helps your connection with God, too (which, I have little doubt has a lot to do with the well-functioning of your heart and brain). I’ve had this mantra around breathing for quite a while—and sometimes remember to use it when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed out: “Breathe. The Spirit cannot breathe through you if you are not breathing.”
It is actually kind of helpful to remember that as I look at this calendar and my to-do list. It reminds me that no matter how much I do, I’m not necessarily doing any good for anyone (especially in my role as pastor … you know the non-anxious presence) if I do not take the time to figure out where the Spirit is breathing—and that takes time. That takes stopping and breathing. And breathing—yes, just breathing—becomes prayer.