A few weeks ago, after a particularly long day, I went to visit an old friend. As I was sitting in front of her, she said something that was incredibly profound. She looked at me and said, “Breathe in the good shit (pause) and breathe out the bad shit.” She repeated this again and again, until I finally started listening.
It was an important moment for me. I needed to remember I was too busy taking breaths filled with the things that were beyond my control. There have been so many times in the last few weeks that I have held my breath. I have held onto things that were laced with hatred and anger, judgment and even rage. I have been unable to breathe out those things. They have been filling my “lungs” and preventing me from making room for the healthy things that need to replace the rot.
I have a living example of what happens when the bad shit fills the space. My dad has been experiencing fluid build up on his lungs. He had 7 liters of fluid drained off his right lung since January. The first drain collected 4+ liters alone (see lovely visual – no, we were not brewing beer in the hospital room). Can you imagine what it feels like to have that much weight and wet and heavy on your chest as you are trying to fill your lungs to sustain life? Weighed down. Like you are drowning. So very heavy. This sounds eerily like my world when I forget to exhale. When I forget to let go of the weight of the day, the week or the year.
This also prevents me from having the capacity to breathe in new, fresh air. After the doctor drained Dad’s lung, he handed him a spirometer and explained to him that without exercising his lung and training it to remain expanded after the fluid removal, it would simply refill. I can’t help but feel the same is true for my heart when I don’t choose to breathe in hope and renewal and peace.
This morning, our pastor asked us to participate in a corporate practice of silence. I realized in that moment that I had been holding my breath again. I had the figurative weight of heavy fluid on my chest. I spent the entire 60 seconds exhaling. My friend’s voice just kept screaming in my ear, “Breathe out the bad shit. Breath out the bad shit.” It was only when I let go of the weight, the worry, the hopelessness and the unknown that I could make space for anything good. I could not breathe in the good shit because I had liters of weight preventing my ability to take a breath.
What are you holding? What do you need to exhale? May you start this week with the gift of breath narrated by my friend Nadia. She is the best.