"Welcome Back" - A Breath Practice
I'm surprised at how often I remember the character, "Roseanna Danna", played by Gilda Radner on the TV show Saturday Night Live? Her wise-mouthed mantra was, “It’s always something!” It's true! It IS always something, something that will yank us out of any sweet spot of serenity we’ve found. Such is the nature of life as a human being.
The "something" that upsets our equanimity can be big or small, seemingly trivial or completely life-altering. As I read through headline news these days, it feels as if there are more somethings than ever before. At least that's what my anxiety prone mind tells me. In truth, life has always been difficult for humans for as long as we've inhabited the earth. Violence is ever-present and the suffering it creates as well. Sickness, old age, and death are but a blink away.
With all these somethings going on, how can we stay in touch with a more balanced state of mind, our wise and hopeful heart? For me, it always comes back to re-connecting with my breath. This breath is not just any breath but, to me, a sacred breath. Breathing in, breathing out, with "restful purposefulness" welcomes me Home.
These days, I am engaging with my breath in this welcoming way as if each breath I take actually whispers "Welcome back" into the ear of my heart. The tone of this wise voice is sweet, full of loving-kindness, ever so gentle. It comes from a part of my own self that recognizes how other parts of me have wandered too far afield and how they long for a loving embrace.
Breathing in, "Welcome back. I am glad you're here."
Breathing out, "Rest in this moment."
Breathing in, "Welcome back. You are home."
Breathing out, "Let go and simply be here now."
What words of welcome might your inner wisdom whisper into the ear of your heart?
Grocery Store Smile - With Masks On
It's mid-December and we find ourselves still struggling through pandemic times. The nature of our casual encounters like those we might have at the grocery store have changed. To me, they feel less connective. We are not only distanced from one another physically, but emotionally as well. I wonder if this is how we truly want to experience one another going forth for as long as the pandemic lasts.
A few years ago, I shared a practice I call "Grocery Store Smile." This was something I always tried to do while in the grocery story. I'd put a little smile on my face and make eye contact with a perfect stranger, or with someone who worked in the store. With a slight smile I could convey, "I see you," and send them a simple blessing. With someone who looked stressed, I might smile and silently say, "May you be at ease in your life today." Sometimes people would smile back, or at least offer a little twinkle through their eyes, as if they had received my subtle kindness.
Today, with masks on, with tension running high, many of us move in and out of stores as quickly as we can, and smiles are hidden. Eyes, however, are still the windows to the soul, as Shakespeare said, and even in pandemic times, we can convey goodwill with our eyes. Our eyes can smile, twinkle, shine a little brighter when we see someone. Our eyes can convey what's in our hearts—fear or friendliness, anxiety or appreciation. The choice is ours.
This holiday season, I invite you to try my Grocery Store Smile practice now and then. It's one easy way to convey Presence to people—and lovingkindness, too. During these times, we can all use a little more kindness.
Tis' is the season of giving. May we never forget how sweet it can be to offer someone the simple gift of a blessing.
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Dr. Janice Lynne Lundy (PsyD, DMin, MPC)
is The Gerald May Professor of Spiritual Direction & Counseling at the Graduate Theological Foundation. She is an interspiritual director/mentor, educator and counselor who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for nearly thirty years.