Culture, emotions, Theology

Coming Up For Air – 5 Tips For Deeper Breathing This Summer


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Plumbing the Depths Like 007

Daniel Craig as James Bond and Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt are two of my favourite action movie characters. (Matt Damon as Jason Bourne is my other, btw). In both Casino Royale and in the latest Mission Impossible film Rogue Nation, there are two drowning scenes that are full-on awful to watch because they’re so brilliantly realistic in portraying the horrifying moment when drowning becomes an inevitability for Vesper and Ethan when they begin to inhale water.

This summer time, are you making plans to have a holiday or rest because you feel a need to refresh? Maybe you’re feeling stressed with the rhythms of your work-life or perhaps home-life is proving difficult or you’re in the process of finishing Uni or trying to find a new job or moving house or having a baby or caring for a friend who has mental health problems?

For every single one of us living a faith-based life doing our best to follow Jesus, there are seemingly endless scenarios that result in us plumbing the depths of mental and spiritual stress that lead us to the place of a type of drowning. We need to come up for air and much more often than we do.

A healthy mind is for life not just for summer.

5 Tips For Coming Up For Air:

ONE. Part A. Actually Look at Yourself in the Mirror – If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that you run to your maxed-out limit and probably a little beyond where the margins of your life are inadequately (and sometimes dangerously) thin. Taking stock of how you are actually feeling about your season of life needs you to literally eye-ball yourself and ask the question – “How am I really doing?”

ONE. Part B. Actually Talk to Yourself in the Mirror – If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it helpful to give yourself a right good talking to where existential funk seems to creep in a little, or a lot. I’ve learnt that Psychologists officially call this prescription “self-talk” and is a major psychological model for improving sporting or athletic performance, for example.

Literally looking and speaking to yourself when you begin to recognise symptoms of drowning (feelings of being unable to cope, feelings of anger, feelings of insecurity or anxiety, unhealthy sleeping or eating patterns etc) is a useful way of assessing how you actually are.

But none of this is a silver bullet and I know for sure that I often will need to do a lot more than look at myself in the mirror and practise my Rocky pep talks.

TWO. Actually Give Yourself Time. Even when you have cleared your diary or booked some time off, you’ll still need time to thaw out properly.

Have you seen the advert on the TV when the family go on holiday with Daddy who is an ogre? Grumpy/angry/ugly until he rushes into the sea with the kids and then, miraculously, is transfigured under the waves only to reappear as a normal human Daddy – a quality advert making a quality point: it takes time to unwind and relax so don’t force it, let it happen naturally.

THREE. You Don’t Need to Constantly Fast and Pray – Sometimes when we have what we like to call “retreat time” we allow ourselves to come under a subconscious pressure of needing to “up our prayer/Bible time” in order to make the most of the time of spiritual sojourn. It’s worth writing this down in your journal:

Every season and every struggle and every set of pressures are unique meaning that the prescribed way of resting and recuperating from them will also be unique

It’s not like taking a one-size-fits-all pill. Love God, love Jesus, love the truth of the word and enjoy His presence eating ice-cream as well as reading the Bible. For some of you it will be to get out and go for a prayer walk in the sun, others it will be to listen to a pod-cast during your work-out instead of Justin Bieber and for others addicted to socialising the radical rest will come in finding some solitude and time on your own.

Having said that…

FOUR. Breathe Deeply When You Do Come Up For Air – There’s always a higher place. When you come up for air you do want to breathe deeply, not shallowly. Your depleted o2 levels means you need to replenish your spiritual blood chemistry to again achieve healthy equilibrium. So relax and recreate as you will but also spend time breathing deeply in prayer and in the Bible. Make sure you have some times of grabbing your spouse or your best friend when you say “Hey, shall we pray?” and then spend some time doing that together. Or having time with God totally on your own when you escape the crowd and just chat to Him – practising the presence like Brother Lawrence washing the pans. Did you know that you can connect powerfully with God in the middle of a crowd or a storm? Practising His presence means deliberately learning to appropriate His constant nearness with you in all conditions. Breathe. Slowly. Deeply. Wait for Him.

Finally…

FIVE. God Knows Exactly Where You Are. Don’t try and hide from Him. He knows the season you’re in as you consider a break this summer. He knows the limit of your strength. He knows the threshold of your mental capacity. He is deeply concerned about your spiritual welfare. Your summer 2016 may look entirely different to your Summer 2015 or 2017 and sometimes God’s wisdom for your life is to grow up, get real and start to really follow Him properly. Other times it will be not to fear the evil of people in your world who are doing you harm, to grab a whippy ice-cream, a cup of tea and a walk in the sun with the people who love you and who you love too.

This summer 2016, ensure you are coming up for air by having a proper break from the places, people and priorities in your regular world and refresh by breathing a little more deeply.

 

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