Every day, we navigate between things that drain us and things that replenish us. Our health–both spiritual and physical–is contingent upon how much time we spend in each of those areas.
The big drainers are obvious: stress, sickness, sleepless nights, finances. We are usually aware when we are dealing with the big things. But, it’s those “daily concerns” that can get us. If we aren’t careful of how we manage those, we wind up drained, weary, and discouraged. If only those things came with a warning sign.
Well, actually, maybe they do. If we can get quiet, and focus on the present moment, our conscience will likely be warning us. Keep out of this ditch, it will whisper. We may be involved with talking negatively, thinking judgmentally, meditating on tomorrow’s problems, contemplating the “what ifs” of today, embracing the lies that parade as truth, self-focus, unforgiveness, excessive social media.
The bad and ugly come to drain us every day. But there are ways to stay out of drainage ditches. Mindfulness is one of the best ways to do this because it can open us up to our thoughts.
I am learning to be still inside that I might observe my thoughts and, without judgment, gently replace them. I wish I could say I do this quickly every single time, but I am practicing and getting a little better at it.
We get more of what we focus on, so we want our thoughts focused on things that are good and beautiful and authentic. Those kinds of thoughts aren’t our go-to’s. Although we usually can’t control our circumstances, we can always choose our response.
It is in stillness that we will hear the words, “Keep Out. Drainage Ditch.” Kinda like a sign.
“There are days, or nights, or long stretches of weeks or months or even years, when breathing is the only prayer we’ve got.” A Holy Experience
I always knew there were long stretches of days, even weeks that required deep breathing. Only recently have I come to realize that those stretches can become years. And I have decided to be okay with that. Change isn’t going away.
Change is generally not our focus growing up. Even if we encounter something hard, there is so much going on that we move forward and adapt. But as we get older, change messes with us more regularly and we feel the changed spaces more intensely.
Before there were vulnerable conversations about well being, I used to feel guilty that I was in the midst of a breathing season maybe too long. Moving through a challenging season, I usually wanted to simply move on and get over it. And we have to do both to move forward. But that’s not the whole point.
Sometimes our very DNA is being changed and it takes time and trust for that to happen. All we can do is surrender and breathe our way through the transition. However long that takes. Whether we see it or not, we are being led to light.
First and foremost, we are spiritual beings. God—or whatever term best describes how we each see the force at work within and without—works in our darkness and silence to bring light and peace.
It helps to remember that love, resurrection, and transformation are at the core of most major religions, spiritual teachings, and the world around us. Every day we watch the steadfastness of the sun rising, the transformative power of rebirth in the seasons, and the metamorphosis of living things all around us.
What is broken gets transformed, healed, and made whole. Over and over again. So let’s breathe our way through this current season. Because even if we get to celebrate a victory, there is so much broken and hurting all around us.
So if breath is the only prayer we got, it’s ok. We are being led to mercy and light, where the mundane and the broken can become holy and whole.
Many of us practice expressing gratitude to counter negativity. A great addition would be searching out beauty and making that a daily habit. It’s pretty easy to stare at the ugly and the sad. But always always always there is something beautiful in the same scene.
Maybe we’ll have an opportunity to point someone towards beauty in the midst of their broken. Maybe that’s what angels do as they walk the earth. And perhaps, sometimes, they quietly inspire us to speak on their behalf.
Sometimes I can get discouraged by all the encouragement out there.
Every day, there is a pin or a post about never giving up, letting our dreams be bigger than our fears, never limiting our vision. And I picture all these people doing huge things and influencing thousands of people.
And I feel small. And sometimes question whether I have anything to offer that will matter. But then I remember her.
Every sunny day, this precious 90-something woman in a bright yellow coat and a beanie copter hat walked down a sidewalk by my house, plastic bag in hand. I would often see her standing, pointing to something not visible to my eye. Or picking up garbage. And I must admit, I thought she was a little, well, crazy. Until I met her.
One spring day I was out walking and saw her in the distance beckoning me to come. She was enthusiastically pointing at something, and I honestly didn’t see what she was pointing at. “It’s a leaf! It’s not just a bud, but it’s blossomed into a leaf. Isn’t that just beautiful!” This 90-year old woman who has seen the signs of spring for that many years was still struck by the beauty the season. And I would have missed it.
I stopped to chat with her the next time I passed her by on my walk. She was picking up garbage and putting it in that little plastic bag. “I love beauty so I go out and pick up the garbage I see on my walk. It helps this place look better.” I asked her if I could take her picture. She seemed shocked that I wanted her picture, but she smiled big and walked away happy. I walked away changed.
The next sunny day, I looked for her. And the time after that. Sadly, I never saw her again. She never knew the impact she had on my life. She appreciated beauty, noticed the little things, and did what she could with what she had. It’s really so simple. She taught me to look for the leaf amongst the buds, to have eyes that perceive beauty, and create more beauty wherever I happen to be. Simply, to do what I can with what I have.
I didn’t read that in a book, a pin, or a post. I learned it from a 90-year old woman picking up garbage in a beanie copter hat. She was truly a woman of perception, maybe even an angel with a sense of style.
Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception