Slowing down and mindfully breathing are useful skills regardless of the activity. We can practice them when we have arguments with a spouse, concerns about a teenager’s behavior, or disputes in our place of work or worship. We can practice them when we feel frightened about a family member who is ill or when we are devastated by the death of someone we love. Maybe life’s on-going lesson is: Slow down. Breathe. Ask for help. Don’t panic. Stay afloat the best we can. Keep learning. And when we falter, remember it’s okay. We can try again.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” —Desiderata by Max Ehrmann “When you have peace within, real peace with others is possible.” —Thich Nha't Hanh With all the world’s incessant noise and chatter, it can sometimes seem nearly impossible to find calm moments of peace. That loss of quiet reflection can feel even more pronounced in our current age of information overload via computers, smart phones, and other mobile devices. A calm inner state may be especially difficult to attain during the holiday season if you’re already feeling added stress or profound sadness. Peaceful moments, however, are available. Like the sun on a stormy, overcast day, we may not feel its presence. Yet, peace is always there. How do we find calm in times of chaos? Where is it during family strife or heartache? I’m one of those people who does better with lots of sunshine and not quite as well in the winter months. Living in the Midwest means I have to be much more intentional during the long dark days of winter to practice self-care, to slow down and rest, and to find ways to keep myself warm, cozy, and content. The same is true of my spiritual well being during stressful times. If I continually subject myself to an influx of negative information from multiple sources, I start to feel depleted. Taking time to fill my inner well—during the winter months, during the holidays, and during a crisis—is critical to my sense of calm. Here is what helps me: Stepping back. Breathing. Time alone in silence or prayer. Soft music. A walk. Inspirational readings. A catnap. Three deep breaths. Meditation. Writing. Time in nature. A cup of hot tea. Another deep breath. Peaceful moments are here. We may need to make small daily choices to seek them out. But when we do, it’s like walking through a gate. On the other side of all the mental churning and emotional upheaval, there is a place you can go for a moment of respite. That calm space is available to you whenever you need it—behind whatever else may be going on in your life—because it is within.