There really is a kind of insane beauty around us all the time. It’s just a question of learning to slow down, take a deep breath and meet the moment.

Graham Nash

This morning, I found myself sitting in a grand hotel lobby, listening to the authentically touching sounds of local Nashville music, and watching the sun’s light appear over a city edging toward the full green of Spring. Considering today’s post, I flipped back in time through my journal – pages and pages of words marking the moments, observations, and contemplations of a pilgrim moving through life’s formations.

As I read through my words, I recognized a recurring theme forming around two of them: deep breaths. In ways, the timing and cadence of their appearance seemed to reflect a mantra of sorts, an internal coping mechanism manifested in the repetition of the words…deep breaths. I could almost hear those two words echoing through my past at an ever-slowing pace, in a calming tone reminiscent of my mother’s soothing words in another time and place.

Deep breaths. The calming, bracing, preparing act of inhaling oxygen and its life-giving ministrations. We call for those breaths at key moments of challenge or celebration. The deep breath before the plunge into those difficulties that rattle us. The long exhale as we pass that same moment, relieved that we live to fight another day.

Those breaths are a stabilizing force. They buttress our hopes with the reinforcing confidence of a pause and the natural broadening of our shoulders with air-filled lungs. Buoyed thus, we stand a bit straighter, a little taller, in the face of paralyzing doubt.

Deep breaths foster contemplation. The consideration of moments past and those to come. Head-clearing oxygen opens our eyes to new possibilities as we look beyond the fog of the immediate. Here, we face it all with renewed strength, broadened perspective, and a faith fostered through the surrender of that which is beyond our control. Looking outward, we move beyond the limits of a self consumed with its own difficulties and toward a world in which we focus on something bigger, more meaningful. A higher place.

Looking backward, I trace my deeps breaths, like stones across that raging river of life, they mark those points in which the leap, or the plunge, was made and something new was discovered on the other side. The other side of difficulty, loss, or despair always revealed a new horizon and more fresh air. Deep breaths led the way. Deep breaths marked the moment.

I wonder what you will find as you trace your own deep breaths. Are you prone to holding them for too long or do you exhale with abandon? Do you stiffen in the breath of bracing for impact or breath deeply and freely as you release yourself into the world beyond you? Deep breaths mark the moments; the moments you faced the fear and doubt. Will you allow them to be life giving or to grip you in the fear of gritted teeth and painful grimace as you release them haltingly?

This week, I challenge you to channel your inner Graham Nash and take your deep breath on your way to meeting the moment. Let the air of that breath fill your lungs, straighten your back, and broaden your shoulders against the challenge before it. Then exhale the worry, face the difficulties squarely, and push past toward that next horizon. In pushing past, you will thrive. Then, looking back, you will recognize your best self.