In my version of a perfect world, I go downstairs as dawn breaks. Opening the French doors to my office, I walk in, light a pine-scented candle and step onto my blue yoga mat, the one that’s wearing thin where my feet and hands tend to land. I watch the flame settle into the rhythm of burning and start to breathe deeply into my belly. I reach my hands toward the ceiling and then let my torso fall forward into a deep bend. I continue to breathe and move through the postures that fit like a second skin after years of repetition.
Five minutes go by, then 10, then 30, sometimes even 45. After I’m done moving, I relax onto the mat and reach for the rock on the shelf in front of it, next to the candle. Rock in hand, I feel the solid nature of earth and the beauty of imperfection that it represents. I feel that energy running through my entire body as I continue to breathe deeply and say a prayer of thanks for a new day. I blow out the candle, open the doors and step into the light.
I don’t live in a perfect world, as it turns out. Some days I don’t go down to the office at all, or I just go into the office to work. Truth be told, sometimes weeks go by, things distract me, and I find that I’ve floated away from any sort of formal wellness practice.
Sometimes I feel adrift.
Maybe you do too. Do you ever forget you’re breathing? I forget about it sometimes. If I’m being honest, there are stretches of days that go by in which I haven’t noticed a single breath. There are times I get so sucked into the task at hand or the stress of the job or the anxiety of the situation that I forget I’m breathing. I forget I’m connected to that life force that’s always there, grounding me.
Wellness, like breathing, requires attention to reap the full benefits possible. It’s always there, accessible. We must be intentional about it and reengage with those parts of ourselves that invite it in when we drift, even if this is as simple as drinking a glass of water before a cup of coffee or stepping outside for five minutes before a day of meetings. As Ellie Roscher, who co-authored the book 12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life (Broadleaf Books, 2021) with me, writes in our chapter on spirituality, “Hidden in plain sight before me is something on fire with sacredness.”
Like faith, wellness is grounded in noticing, in paying attention to ordinary details.
For people of faith, every ordinary detail of the day is another opportunity to invite well-being and truly embody belief. There is sacred in the holy ordinary.
Like faith, wellness is grounded in noticing, in paying attention to ordinary details. Wellness is grounded in taking a deep breath as the coffee percolates and the kids chatter away over breakfast, or bending over and letting your body sway for a minute after you’ve washed the breakfast dishes. It’s grounded in lighting a candle at lunch or picking up a stone on a walk around the block. It’s grounded in feeling the energy in the soil with your hands as you plant a seed in the garden. It’s grounded in noticing the way the sun warms the skin on your forearms or the way the cold wind takes your breath away.
It’s grounded in the connections we cultivate when we take time to notice. It’s grounded in the elemental nature of breath itself, of being a living creature on a living planet. It’s grounded in remembering that each breath taken is another opportunity to fully embody our creatureliness as a beloved child of God.
I feel great on the days when I do an entire formal wellness/yoga practice and even better when I consistently do that practice for days at a time. But even when I don’t, and I drift away from my morning routine, I can find that sense of connection to something greater than myself by breathing through the earth elements that weave into my day.
When I give attention to the things that ground me into seeing the sacred in the ordinary—the sacred in my land base, the sacred in my community, the sacred that courses through my own body—I find the kind of devotion that reminds me that my life is connected to the divine.
Living well is feeling both grounded in reality and connected to the vastness beyond our human lives, somehow even in the same breath. And we always have to breathe.