Hello brave and weary travelers-
It’s been a busy weekend here, and I feel like all the conversation about re-opening is giving folks even more to think about, so I’m going to try to keep this concise. Here are two practices to consider this week as we work to stay centered, present and creative during these challenging times:
Simple and Straightforward:
This is not a contemplative practice in the traditional sense, but it is a simple and straightforward tool to re-center your body and mind in the midst of a stressful moment or encounter. Based on my own experience and listening to those around me, it seems like the last week or two have left folks feeling particularly frayed around the edges. The tool is called box breathing, and it’s been employed by everyone from therapists to Navy SEALS to train the brain to release stress and turn towards calm and focus quickly. It’s also something that you can practice literally anywhere: in traffic, while your kids are screaming, if feeling overwhelmed by the news, or trying to get to sleep. Here is an article with a bit more detail and some links at the bottom for companion apps, but the very simple and direct instructions are:
-Breathe in for four counts
-Hold breath in for four counts
-Breathe out for four counts
-Keep lungs empty for four counts
If that feels too complicated, simply breathing in for 8 counts, then out for 8 counts on a repetitive cycle can do wonders for bringing stress biomarkers down. That was the first breath work I ever did personally, and it actually changed a lot for me just to take a minute or two during a stressful day and employ the 8 count breath for only one to two minutes at a time.
Something we can do together, apart:
Yesterday we had the pleasure of gathering our grantees on a Zoom call, and during our break, we experimented with implementing a giant group text to share snaps from our daily life and environments of things that were bringing us joy or sustaining us in these days. My attempt to get the group text functioning pretty much failed because my iPhone didn’t want me to text more than 15 folks at a time. According to more tech savvy folks, if you’d like to replicate this idea more successfully, your go-to apps would be WhatsApp or GroupMe. The happy accident is that even though we didn’t see everyone’s pics in real time, I got to put together this slideshow of the photos after the fact, and watching it today has literally bolstered my spirits. Seeing the people, places, views, and natural beauty that folks are celebrating on the daily felt like good medicine. It’s creative fodder for each of us, and a great reminder to keep paying attention and cultivate gratitude even when times feel tough.
A little something to keep our hearts and brains engaged:
This week’s verse: “Trust in the Lord, and do good.” (Psalm 37:3)
This week’s poem: Friends sent this poem by Robert Francis to me for my birthday years ago. It’s been on my heart recently when I think of the people and things I miss dearly. How will I live differently when all this is over? How can I wake up more in this life, and in what ways can we show up for each other better in this way?
Peace be with you, and may your days be full of small pleasure but enormous joy!