Sometimes we like to complicate things. Every now and again it is good to simplify, to make it plain and simple. The other day it occurred to me that three words well simplify the well being I have discovered in my physical, emotional and spiritual life. They are (in the same order): Move, Breathe, and Trust.
Lets look at each. Remember, “Move pertains to the physical, to the body; “Breathe” to the emotional and psychological, and “Trust” to the spiritual.
I. Move – Some years ago my doctor told me that the secret to good health, strength, and longevity, came down to one word: “move!” Becoming sedentary causes innumerable problems: weight gain, lethargy, fatigue, boredom, depression, muscular atrophy, the bones become less firm, more brittle, breathing becomes shallow, posture becomes poor, the heart is weakened, pulmonary issues like asthma become more likely, the blood is less oxygenated, thinking is less clear…
Well you get the point: Move! Walk daily. Except for swimming, there is almost no better exercise. If joints are already arthritic or problematic, an elliptical machine is a good low impact option.
I was a runner earlier in life but my knees suffered. I don’t personally think the human body is designed for sustained distance running. There is too much impact on the joints. Injury is common, and some of the damage to the joints can be permanent. I thus took up walking about 15 years ago and walk at least two miles a day, six days a week.
Walking is low impact, and gentle. It promotes aerobic breathing, rather than the panting of running. It requires little or no equipment, and provides time for praying, listening to music or podcasts, talking with a walking partner or on the phone (recommend a hands free device so arms can naturally swing). I look forward to my evening walks!
The people of the Bible were amazing walkers. Mother Mary and St. Joseph, Jesus and all the Apostles make the yearly walk to Jerusalem on foot, 70 miles each way. They walked everywhere through very hilly and mountainous regions. Mary walked 70 miles to Bethlehem when she was min months pregnant. She and Joseph walked hundreds of miles to Egypt, carrying Jesus. And then back again. The people of the Bible were hardy people. They walked, often carrying heavy loads.
Move: Walk daily if you can. If you need to start by just walking half a block and back, start there and increase it every day. But move. Take the stairs when you can, walk instead of driving if you can. Get off the sofa. Some people even have a standing desk to work at in their office. (See photo above right).
There’s a handy little device called the “UP” bracelet that actually counts your steps each day. The goal for the average adult is 10,000 steps a day. Yours truly averages 12 – 15 thousand a day. There’s a video at the bottom that describes the “UP” system.
Move, it will change your life, improving not only your body but also your soul.
II. Breathe – My Psychotherapist has a plaque on her desk that just says, “BREATHE”. Most of us don’t know how to breathe. We breathe with our chest and only fill the top of our lungs.
It isn’t hard to learn how to breathe more properly, how to use the belly to breathe. Babies naturally do it, but as we get older and self conscious about our bellies we breathe less deeply. Once again, there is a video that shows the proper way to breathe deeply at the bottom of the post.
To breathe is to get in touch with our innermost self, and also our body. Breathing is very spiritual. As we breathe in, we receive the blessings of God. As we breathe out we let go of inner stresses and struggles. Exhaling is a form of release, inhaling a form of receiving.
Deep breathing can be very relaxing, it reduces stress and is a wonderful way to prepare ourselves to pray. Too many of us are out of touch with our body and our very self. Breathing can reconnect us to our self and to God. Too many of us store up a lot of stress. We need to learn how to exhale. Too many of us live on fumes. We need to learn how to draw more deeply from the life-breath God offers.
III. Trust – My Spiritual Director has often reduced his advice to one word: “Trust.” The root of all my anxiety, I have ever experienced, comes down to one fact, I did not trust God. To the degree that I have learned to trust God, I am less anxious. In fact I will say, I rarely get anxious anymore. It is the result of a 15 year journey out of panic disorder into trust.
I cannot write a whole article here on trust. But two things ought to be emphasized.
First the illusion of “control” is a big enemy of trust in God. Control is ultimately an illusion. You may have a few things under your control, such as what you will eat for dinner, where you will shop for clothes etc. But even the things and plans you have, and think you can control are based on innumerable things that you cannot control, like the next beat of your heart; that there will not be an accident that backs up traffic on the way to the store; that your car does not break down, etc. You have have no control over whether the store burns down or the item you want is in stock.
Thus, control, in any thorough sense, is illusory and limited. Thinking we can and should be in control is to seek to live in illusion, and living in illusion is stressful, unhappy and very frustrating.
We always think that if we can be in control we will be less anxious. This is not so. The great paradox about serenity is that acceptance of the fact that there are many things we cannot control reduces anxiety and brings peace. “You are not in control” is a “hard” truth that brings great serenity and induces trust if we come to accept it.
Secondly, a central way to open the door to trust is the remembrance of gratitude. In the spiritual sense, to “remember” means to have deeply present in my mind and heart what God has done for me, so that I am grateful and different. To remember is to discipline my mind and heart to ponder how good and faithful God has been; to spend time every day considering the gifts and graces of God, how He has sustained and provided for me. This makes me grateful and different.
It also builds trust, and trust drives our fears, resentments, and all forms of anxiety. Through gratitude I become a man of hope. That is, I confidently expect God’s help and providence to see me through to my goal of being with Him in Glory.
An old song says, “Through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God….I learn to depend upon his word!”
That is my story. I’ve learned to trust. And over the years, in the laboratory of my own life, I have proved God’s word and his promises and found them to be true. Trust, learn to trust, to lean, to let go. God says, “I’ve God this, so you let go.”
Three words that can change your life: move, breathe, trust.