Public Witness

Keep Breathing

Allison Tanner

January 21, 2022

We’re still in mid-January, and already I have had countless conversations with people who are struggling. The collective weight of living in pandemic times, times of great economic disparity, a new era of racial reckoning, and threats of more wars can be overwhelming. So many of us are languishing, so many are struggling with mental health, so many are watching loved ones suffer, so many are overwhelmed by the disturbing events taking place all around us. In so many of my conversations, I remind people to be gentle with themselves and to keep breathing.

Breathing has become a form of bodily prayer for me these past few years. When I feel my anxiety rising, I’m reminded of my need to slow down and take a deep breath. Anxiety causes my chest to constrict, but breathing deeply reverses this. As I give myself oxygen, I can feel myself relax and even begin to open back up. The physical changes from deep breathing are calming, resetting the nervous system. The spiritual changes from deep breathing are grounding, resetting the soul. When I breath deeply, I’m reminded that it was God that first breathed life into humanity, God who can breathe life into dry bones, and the resurrected Jesus who poured out his breath on his disciples.

When you find yourself anxious or overwhelmed in the days ahead, I encourage you to keep breathing. Breathe in hope and love and gentleness and perseverance. Breathe out anxiety and fear and distress and despair. Breathe in gratitude for all the things that give you life. Breathe out release of all that seeks to sap that life from you. Breathe for our beloved community, suffering and in need of one another. Breathe prayers for yourself, your community and all creation. As you feel your chest relax, let your heart expand, knowing that the divine continues to offer the breath of life to us all.

I’m more and more convinced that it is acts of self-care like deep breathing that provide the needed grounding for us to offer public witness in the year ahead.

Peace and love,

Pastor Allison

Sunset from my office window last week, reminding me to breathe in the beauty of life.