Life on campus is pretty busy these days. Students are scrambling to get those last few projects and papers finished, while studying for exams, arranging housing for P6 rotations, looking for post-graduation jobs, and saying goodbye to members who are leaving various student organizations at the end of the year. The professors, meanwhile, are trying to grade all those papers, projects and exams, fulfill committee duties, advise students about next year’s classes, and writing recommendations that will help their students get the perfect job or internship this summer. Add to that the pressures that the staff face–preparing the campus for the onslaught of family and friends who will be here for Honors Day and Commencement, helping student groups elect and train new officers for next year, planning for orientation and new student arrivals (yes, we plan that far in advance!), and also writing recommendations and signing community service hour forms to boot.
And I’m sure that the campus of Ohio Northern University isn’t the only place where people feel busy. Everyone from small business owners, to corporate executives, to everyday working Joes and Janes can feel the pressure now and then that seem to come with modern life. We live in a world of busyness. Timetables to keep, demands to meet, customers to please, products to produce, projects to complete, legislation to get passed–all of these pressures can weigh on society like a thousand-pound weight around our necks. No one seems to have time to breathe anymore, and as a result, we live in a country that is stressed out, unhealthy, and obese.
Breathe. That’s the key. At a workshop I attended recently about Mindfulness, the teacher spoke about how we so often go through life not noticing that we’re breathing. Of course, breathing is an involuntary function–we don’t have to think about breathing. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to think about it from time to time. Thinking about breathing, or more accurately, focusing our thoughts on our breathing, can lead us to slow down, focus, concentrate on what’s important in the moment. Focusing your breath on particular parts of your body that are hurting can actually help the healing process. If you think about breathing out the problems you’re facing and breathing in the grace of God, you may find yourself more able to face stressful situations with a serenity that comes from a source much deeper than your own mind and spirit. Being present with your breathing allows you to be present to the moment, and the people around you. And, being mindful of your breathing can help you remember things more clearly! Now there’s a practical application. For instance, I rarely lose my keys when I take a moment to focus on my breathing as I set them down on the table. If I take a deep breath as I set my keys down, and breathe out saying, “Here are my keys. I’m setting them right here.” I can remember that moment far longer than if I rush in the house, throw my keys randomly on the table, and move on to the next stressful moment in my life.
If you’re feeling busy or stressed out, take some time to breathe today, and be truly present in the moment. Begin with any moment. You’d be surprised how fulfilling it can be just to focus your thoughts for a brief moment before moving on. And, with practice, you’ll notice that you find yourself doing that more and more often, until you can begin practicing mindful presence in the moment throughout your day, without even thinking about it! You’ll feel your stress level decreasing. Your health will improve. You’ll never lose your keys again.
St. Benedict used to tell his monks that time for prayer and meditation was time that had been “stolen from the world.” Steal some time from the busy world today to take a deep breath and focus your attention on God’s grace in your life.