Small Seeds of Hope: Breathe in Beauty
Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week
Hands on. In her fascinating book, Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist's Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain's Healing Power, psychologist Kelly Lambert describes how her research lead her to conclude that if:
(a) you do something with your hands
(b) that you enjoy and
(c) that is productive in some way,
(d) it will help you feel better.
As in less stressed and depressed, and more positive. Like cooking, gardening, art, music, home improvements, even cleaning house (some people actually enjoy it!). You name it. I have found that it really works. And there's research and brain science to prove it. At the very least it is a distraction from all that bad news.
Breathe in Beauty
The other day in my morning quiet time I was feeling fairly anxious. That's nothing new these days--there's lots to be anxious about. And sometimes, unfortunately, when I quiet my body, my "monkey brain" takes off.
I often find some respite from that anxiety and "stinking thinking" in journaling. That could be related, in part, to the "Hands On" tool described above. Plus, there's quite a bit of research on the various benefits of writing, not just for writers but for everyone. And for me, writing, though not always easy, and sometimes quite difficult indeed, is something I love to do--something that feels like native territory.
When I journal I usually feel pretty connected to my Higher Power, though sometimes it takes a lot of writing about what is making me anxious before helpful messages begin to come through. This particular day, however, as soon as I put my pen to paper the message was clear: "Breathe in beauty."
Beauty is all around me--it hasn't gone away. The trees, the sky, a bird, an odd little insect. A parent and child hugging. A volunteer offering time to support someone. I just need to slow down enough to see it. To breathe it in. To allow it to filter into my heart and my soul. Simply. Quietly. Mindfully.
Ah, but monkey brain talks back. You're just being selfish, she says. You need to be thinking about all the problems in the world right now, how you might fix them.
She's not grandiose--or critical--is she? As if I could fix any of the world's problems, let alone all of them. As if breathing in beauty and being of service are incompatible. As if I either breathe in beauty OR engage in the world. Plus, she seems to feel that if she is thinking about problems all the time she is in control. I think she may be afraid.
I expect the reality is, if I try to "fix" or "help" or even serve without the foundation of the hope...stillness...connection that practices like breathing in beauty can offer, I will lose what little good I could do. Except I find I don't really know how to do that "both/and" thing: breathing in beauty AND engaging in the world.
The response that came through my writing? "If you breathe in beauty one breath out of a thousand, that is really, really good."
One breath out of a thousand? I got out the calculator. The adult respiratory rate is about 20 breaths per minute--that's the higher side of the average. If there are 1440 minutes in a day (60 minutes X 24 hours), then each of us takes about 28,800 breaths a day. So one breath out of a thousand would mean...28-29 breaths a day? That would be just a little more than once an hour, on average.
How could that be enough?
Well, maybe those few breaths of beauty could act as catalysts? Maybe I could spread them out during the day? Maybe they could serve as a peaceful foundation for sharing a little love? Maybe I don't need to fix everything in the world? Maybe I don't even need to try. Maybe I just need to breathe and be and serve, as I can.
Breathing with appreciation for all the loveliness, big and little, that is still here surrounding us. Taking a breath with my heart connected to God, the Universe, the Good Big Thing, once an hour, breathing in beauty.
If more and more of us did that? I suspect it would--slowly--begin to change the world.
Until next time,
Cooking: Kevin McCutcheon, unSplash
Field of flowers: Olga Filonenko, unSplash
Hug: Austin Wade, unSplash
Shells: Lawrence Walkin
Frost on window: Dawn Hunt
Tree: Aaron Burden, unSplash