The Art Of Breathing

I took the above picture last Friday while on a walk with one of my boys on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula. The walk came at the end of a very big and busy week. As I sat by the creek near Bushrangers Bay I was thankful for time to catch my breath! I celebrated a “mini sabbatical”, as Leonard Sweet so wonderfully describes such soul-filling moments.

It seems very appropriate to reflect on such a theme on a Monday, the start of a new week. No matter what our age or stage of life the week ahead for most of us will likely already be filling up with family, work and social appointments and all the other little things that make up day to day life. Just as I started to write this post, I was reminded of the need to add into my calendar reading time in my daughter’s prep class this week.

Yes – we all know the pressures of busyness in our 24-7-365 world where all too often we live at too frantic a pace.

As blogger Randy Willis writes: “Life is busy. We live in a world of fast food, microwave ovens, smart phones, and things like Gogurt (yoghurt for those on the go). Life is so busy that it’s easy for our lives to get out of rhythm!

In such a fast-paced world all busyness can become a badge of honour, particularly in high-performing, success-oriented workplaces. I was only recently chatting with a friend grappling with the pressure of a “first in and last to leave” culture in his workplace, which is so detrimental to healthy life rhythms and relationships.

Over the past decade I have been greatly encouraged by Leonard Sweet’s imaginative and intentional approach to sabbatical rhythms. As he writes: “Sabbath does not come just once a week. Every day needs a holy hiatus. Every day and each week needs to be well ventilated with sabbaticals.”

The root of the word Sabbath means “to catch one’s breath.”

In the Scriptures and in many religious traditions the Sabbath is seen as a “day of rest”, but in today’s busy world it’s essential that the Sabbath concept is embraced as a way to live; that it becomes part of how we do life day to day.

At the heart of such a lifestyle is rhythm.


Build a Rhythm

There is a time for busyness. There is a time for long days. A time for advance, a time for stretch. But increasingly we need to also build in times to “catch our breath” and what I am learning more and more is that this takes intentionality and creativity. We all need times of retreat.

It’s about building rhythms into our lives that appreciate the need to slow, the need to do less, the need to be refreshed, the need to practice soul-filling habits.

It could be a ten-minute walk in between work meetings.

It could be creating margin, so you can walk to pick up your kids from school rather than the last-minute dash in the car.

It could be a bath and a good book; knowing that what’s on the to-do list will still be there tomorrow.

It could be turning off the TV or iPad and going for a walk and listening to Scripture or worship in your ears.

It could be a day in the bush every now and then, or like me on Friday, a long walk on the coast.

It could be a monthly spiritual retreat day.

It could be a quarterly weekend marriage sabbatical.

It could be any one of a million things as long as it works for you – allowing you to catch your breath in a hectic world that all too often can squeeze the life out of us.


“Be Still and Know that I am God”

In Psalm 46:1 we read “Be still and know that I am God”.

Here is a call for all of us to heed in our busy lives. Here is the art; the practice; the discipline of slowing down – of cultivating sustainable rhythms. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us there is a season for everything. That creation and life itself was designed by God with rhythm.

In Luke 5:16 we see Jesus modelling intentional rhythm. “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

As Randy Wills writes: “Rhythm is about knowing when to play and when not to play. It’s learning when to be on and when to be off. It’s the difference between making music and just making noise. When we don’t have rhythm, our life is less and less music and more and more noise.

My life is full of noise and I was reflecting on that as I sat by the creek last Friday.

Reagan and I had walked about 5km to get the isolated and beautiful Bushrangers Bay. The walk took us through diverse terrain. Some parts were easy and the views spectacular, at other times we negotiated some rough terrain, there were hills, stairs and some obstacles to avoid, even an unexpected tiger snake on the track. As I sat by the creek catching my breath I was struck that so often hikes can typify life – the highs and lows, the wonderful moments and the mundane, challenges that call for endurance and times of uncertainty, risk and fear. And things – like tiger snakes – that just come out of nowhere in life!

It was so good to sit by the creek and just breathe. To be still. To pause. To turn off the noise of the world. To intentionally be still, quiet and thankful. To have my soul refreshed.

This week, what sabbaticals do you need to call? What needs to change in your day to day practices to allow you to make more music and less noise?

Scott Pilgrim