"Come back to yourself. Return to the voice of your body. Trust that much.” (Geneen Roth)

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Make Breathing Room

June 15, 2011

The concept of a Breathing Room comes from the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen master teacher and promoter of peaceful and mindful living.  In Peace is Every Step, Thay (a title that means Teacher) writes,

“We have a room for everything — eating, sleeping, watching TV — but we have no room for mindfulness.  I recommend that we set up a small room in our homes and call it a “breathing room,” where we can be alone and practice just breathing and smiling, at least in difficult moments.”

This idea of leaving space, open and empty, in our homes, in our lives, and in our minds is novel in a hurried world where we constantly fill up everything.  We rush to turn on the television when we walk into the house. We rush to turn on the stereo, ipod, CD, or NPR when we get into the car.  We search to find classes and sports so that the kids will have “something to do” when they are out of school and so that they won’t be behind their peers in exposure or achievement.  We often feel that we must earn more so that we can achieve more, be more, buy more.  Then, if we are “lucky,” we clean out, de-clutter, sell on Craigslist and e-bay, or donate what we have acquired so that we can buy new.  If we are “unlucky,” we find ourselves on an intervention reality tv-show where Oprah rescues us from drowning in our accumulation of “stuff.”  It can become an endless cycle of noisy chatter inside our minds and souls.

De-cluttering experts often talk of leaving an empty shelf in a closet or medicine cabinet as a simple way of reminding ourselves of order and cleanliness.   As a parent I remember numerous times that my children did not want to play in a room full of toys strewn about.  They complained that there was nothing to do in there.  After a quick clean-up and tidying session, they were eager to play in their rooms.  The space allowed them to really see what they had and to think clearly about what they wanted to do.  Creating that space for ourselves can bring the same clarity and vision.  If our lives are so full of visual and audible noise can we really see what we have or what we want?

Wishing you room to breathe, a.

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