Three Words That Can Change Your Life.

112013Sometimes 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.

22 Replies to “Three Words That Can Change Your Life.”

  1. What interested me is that someone as awesome as Msgr Pope has a psychotherapist. Maybe this even helps him be more awesome? My trust in the psychological profession is fairly close to zero and I don’t know how one finds a psychotherapist who is an orthodox Catholic with a soundly Catholic anthropology, but I don’t entirely discount the possibility that there could be a use for this, or even a good psychotherapist. I found the part about trust in God helpful.

  2. Father, I have anxiety disorder and have suffered from it as long as I can remember – and you’re absolutely right, it does boil down to trust.

    Funny thing is, when I am closest to God, family members have remarked to me just how trusting a person I am. It’s like, in those few moments I’m a saint, the saintly person God wants me to be excels precisely at those things I find most difficult when I rely on myself: calm, inner peace, trust, prayerfulness. Could it be that the special charisms God gave me to attain are the very things Satan most wants to keep me from attaining? I’d better trust God more, so that I can be a saint in all those things!

  3. Monsignor, you have done it again. These words of wisdom are powerful and will help many. Thank you.

  4. Thank you too Msgr ., for wanting to share helpful hints ;

    regarding the above comment , seems wanting to share the personal info. is in itself an act of trust , that The Lord can make use of such , to help other persons too and more mysteriously , your prayers for mercy, by repenting along with all family members and ancestors of the pts of the therapist and many others who are challenged , using powerful deliverance and casting away prayers , possibly helping many others too .

    Had read about a Fr.Sears , learned Jesuit priest , who mentions how it is repenting all the way to Adam and Eve , that helped him to be free from a spell of depression !

    Theme of family healing , through books and articles such as of Fr.Yozefu ,with emphasis on deliverance prayers and repentance , are getting well recieved in our times !

    Good thing about this concept seems to be , it also helps to make the whole O.T lot more interesting as our own family history and The Lord has wanted us to hear it all, possibly thus to bring forth repentance from us , on behalf of the living and deceased in our lines too , to help all to be set free more into His grace !

    The Family , in a parish that serves Wash. D.C , thus , as mentioned in the previous article, possibly has indirect responsibilty for the whole world almost – understandable how vast the responsibilty and occasion for doing good too is !

    Good to read about the mention of movements as healing – happened to watch a program by a Dr.Sears , who also emphasises same , mentioning even , how we are like giant walking pharmacies that can heal our bodies , through movements , which help to release the God given good healing agents , from cells that line our extensive vascular system .

    There is a good exercise called T-Tap that is on You tube , that demostrates few simple movements that might even be more practical for those who cannot go for a walk at times and can be done , in few mins . indoors too !

    Glad that you too are a fan of the Dvine Mercy Theme of trust ; having counted me too as a practioner of Divine Mercy , found ( still finding ) that trust is not that easy a matter – esp. when it comes to trusting patiently , that The Lord can use the perceived short falls and weaknesses of others , to help us to pray and intercede more effectively for them and all that are part of whatever the person is dealing with , that He can transform persons to such an extent , that greed gets tranformed into desire for Godly riches and so on , to even make good prayer warriors of the fallen ones !

    Hoping that there are large Vilnius images of the Divine Mercy , in every church , rectory and home – esp. children’s bedrooms , to remind all about the reality of The Lord ( in the T.V saturated lives of false images ) to see His compassioate gaze, to know that He undesrstands !

    It is a mystery why that image is not in more places , even if it has been said that , that is the only icon ever done, at the request of our Lord HImself ! – more about the image at this site of St.Faustina’s Congregation ; The Marians of The Immaculate Conception also make them available –

    A blessed Feast of Presentation of Bl.Mother , a mother who possibly felt lonliness , in large temple , taken there at a young age and could relate well to the misunderstanding The Lord was going through , esp. from own kin !
    He comforts her , even indirectly acknowledging that she herself is more than just a Mother to Him , that He is also blessed with others who love Him and do His will ; might even be a glimpse to His divinity , in which , being One with The Father , The Lord too is not just a Son for The Mother but more than that , the Savior , who is to take on that role soon , thus trying to give courage and comfort to The Mother !

    May the temples of the hearts in all our lives be open to the Presence of the Comforter , that He drive away all that is not of Him, from many lives , transforming hearts to call out to our Abba , in trust and gratitude always , on behalf of many !

    1. @Anna:
      Tradition of the Presentation of BVM is based on apocryphal “Gospel of James”, that includes a narrative that she, at age 3 years, was so happy to be in God’s House in Jerusalem that she spontaneously improvised a dance. Tradition that her parents were named Ann and Joachim may be based on same writing.

  5. P.S – wanted to share about this St Alphonsa of The Immaculate Conception of the SyroMalabar Church – she is the only canonised saint of SMCC so far .

    She is a patroness for those dealing with mental challenges ( most , in our times possibly ! ) ; it is said that a theif had broken into her room in the convent , sending her into shock and she recovered miraculously , after a while ; after her death , a poor street woman , with histroy of mental problems had slept on the discarded mat and healed overnight !

    Her life has been made into a movie and here is the section that deals with the episode of her miraculous recovery, wherein she is seeminlgy recovering her lost memory, recalling past events – ( she is reading tamil , not her native tongue , which is Malayalam )

    And a good praise song , written and sung by a charismaticcaly gifted priest –

    and a powerful adoration , deliverance prayer service , by same –

  6. Thank you, Monsignor. Your points about trust are to me a logical extension of yesterday’s post. Learning to know and trust Our Lord through Holy Mass and the sacraments has helped me shed my erstwhile attitude of waiting for a “special dispatch” or something, which I suspect can only open a door wide to the Evil One. To know the Word through His Word has been the greatest fruit of the spiritual direction I’ve been blessed to receive.

  7. I also was surprised that you, Monsignor, mentioned that you have a psychotherapist. Not sure if I would tell people about that. Then, I read what you wrote about trust and I thought that it isn’t a sin to have a psychotherapist and so why not tell people about it if you want to. Trying to calculate all of the possible consequences of what we disclose about ourselves is impossible. I still think it is a good idea, for the most part, to only tell one’s serious sins to God through a priest. Like Elizabeth D, I don’t have much trust in the psychological profession.

        1. I would add though that in the past few years I have heard some better thing about the psychology profession in general. For example that some of them have started teaching the virtues. But what is that? Only what the Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years.

      1. You are a good advertisement for it. If it may be helpful to some people sometimes they need to see that someone they respect also makes use of such help.

      2. Therapy has been very helpful to me these past several months. I found a wonderful Catholic psychologist. He has helped me to deepen my spiritual life, and to see the truth of my life in general more clearly. Good for you for seeing a psychotherapist, Monsignor, and not hiding it.

        Also, I like to walk. It is good. I’ve always suspected we were not born to run, as the song goes. But walking is very healthy. And it doesn’t hurt my knees.

        Thank you for writing such a nice blog and making it public for me to read. 🙂

  8. Interestingly Fr.Yofezu talks about how therapy is a need , since , God at times want us to be dependant upon each other and may be thus even wanting to share His own goodness through others , instead of the fallen nature that might be what led to the problems !

    The real incident upon which the movie ‘Exorcism of Emily Rose ‘ is based , mentions how her situation was the result of a curse by a witch , in the village !

    St.Faustina too went though lot of mental suffeirings too, of mysterious nature .

    A good hearted therapist with empathy and compassion is to be respected, trusted used and helped
    ( through prayers ) , if such help is what The Lord wants for any person !

    St.Alphonsa of The Immaculate Conception, pray for us all who need to learn better , the ways of The Lord !

  9. I have a friend who attends 7:00 AM daily mass with me who is in the NFL Hall of Fame. Joe said that he has never see a runner smiling and that’s why he doesn’t along with the reasons you suggest. Great advise on the walking.

  10. Thank you, Msgr. Pope for sharing the wisdom you have learned with us as a true father shares with his children.

  11. still searching for that verse about psychotherapy; you know, the one that tells us to seek therapists and find the answers for the human heart that Jesus didn’t give.

    1. What a weirdly reductionist notion of Scripture and also of life. I don’t think Scripture says anything about depending on the electric company for power either bob, nor does it mention wearing socks. I’ll bet you do both even though Scripture says that Christ is your light and and that grace is power, and that our feet should be shod with the Gospel of Peace. Jesus gives answers bobster, but it doesn’t usually fall directly out of the sky on your personal head. His answers come through others, preeminently the Church, but also Science, philosophy, history, medicine, etc et al. The Church esteems the truth and the legitimacy of these disciplines insofar as they seek the truth.

  12. Even Venerable Sheen would speak of the role psychiatry. As for psychotherapy, anxiety can still be delt with certain tools and techniques. This would help right that moment. Trusting God may take time-time to build that relationship.

    Remember Saint Dymphna! Patroness of nervous and mental disease. And pray for me, as I all of you and the Monsignor.

  13. Wow, everyone hates psychotherapy. I’m not a psychiatrist, nor have I ever gone to one, but I have taught Psychology in the past. It might be prudent to remember that not all psychiatrists are cut from the same block. There is nothing immoral or anti-Catholic about seeing a mental health professional. Certainly, some (maybe even many) are atheists and view man in a way that isn’t compatible with the Faith, but that isn’t all of them. And even those that are could still be of some use. I’m fairly certain all of my doctors are not Catholics, but they can still treat my body, why couldn’t a psychiatrist treat the mind?

  14. You are right about control. When you are facing the reality of death, you have no control and life itself seems an illusion, a facade. But the truth is we have to have control of so much in order to exist and function normally day to day. This is what we are taught from birth and trained to do more and more as we mature into adulthood, to have “control”. The only way that I have learned to really trust in God (to truly relinquish control) is by His own Hand in teaching me, and He will teach us to trust in Him if we are willing to learn. Any effort I have made to relinquish control (to trust) has actually been very shallow (and not for my lack of desire or trying) and by my own efforts I have really not been very successful, but God has taught me and in His knowing me to teach me so well, I have learned more and more just how much I am not in control. Solomon says “all is vanity” and he is right. And I would like to say too that life is all vanity but I would also like to say that not one bit of it is wasted when it is lived for Christ.

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