We’re about to start a new law school semester. The week before classes start is always a stressful one for me, as I turn to making sure I’m ready for the first week of classes even as I continue to work on other ongoing projects. Since I’m ending a year-long research leave, this week seems particularly harried for me, as I get ready to return the class for first time since a year ago December. I was back from five days at St. Benedict’s Monastery no longer than an hour the other day before I started feeling overwhelmed at everything that has to be done – continued work on the books I’ve been writing this past year, preparation for a number of upcoming retreats and other programs I’m giving (including our law school vocation retreat this weekend), class preparation, financial aid applications for college for Elena, etc., etc. and so forth.
Focusing on my breath helps in those moments when I start to feel things spinning out of control. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. As I close my eyes and feel the breath coming in and the breath going out, I feel the calm seeping through my being, gently releasing the stress and anxiety. Breathe in. Breathe out.
In Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests watching the breath come in and out, reciting with each breath these lines, which he suggests repeating over and over:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
Very simple exercise, but a very effective one. Try it now and try to remember it when you are feeling stressed.