In this busy life filled with distractions, we can often live fractured lives. Our world is full of noise, clutter, tasks, and all sorts of things competing for our attention. Is it any wonder then that many of us go through our day with feelings of stress and anxiety? Sometimes it can seem like we are a bit disconnected from our bodies, minds, and souls. If you experience this, you're not alone.
There are moments throughout the day when I feel "off" and need to recalibrate. Maybe it's triggered by something that didn't go according to my expectations. Or maybe I get overwhelmed because I am trying to tend to several things at once. Whatever the catalyst, I know that I need to pause, recenter, and check in with myself.
I've been doing this short 5-minute check-in with myself, and it's become a little oasis for me. It is a simple centering practice that allows me to pay attention to my body and my needs, and acknowledge how I'm feeling. I can do it anywhere - at my desk, while I'm driving, as I'm laying in bed before I fall asleep. Every time I do this self check-in, I recalibrate and feel more grounded. I call the practice "Breathe and Center."
I figured others might be helped by this too, so I'm sharing it with you here. You are welcome to use this practice to do a 5-minute check-in with yourself. Please let me know if you use it, and share about your experiences.
You can find the audio version on my Resources page.
Here is the written version:
Breathe and Center
Welcome. This is a space for you to pause and check in with yourself. We’ll take a few deep breaths, center ourselves, and then reflect on a few questions.
We begin with focusing on our breathing.
Take a moment to notice your breath. Simply notice how it feels in your body as you breathe in and out. Gradually allow your breathing to go deeper. Take a deep, slow breath in through your nose. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Continue to focus on your breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Mindfully release the tension in your body. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply, while scanning your body for feelings of tension. Begin with your toes, and work your way up your body. Pay attention to each area of your body as you go. Relax any muscles that feel tense by clenching them and then releasing them.
Next, we focus on our center.
Locate your physical center - this is about two inches below your navel. Place a hand on your center. Once you’ve found it, breathe in and out deeply. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Continue to concentrate on your center. Become familiar with where it is and what it feels like. Feel the sensation of being stabilized and grounded. As you focus on your center, allow your mind, body, and soul be present here in this place. When you feel anxiety or stress, turn your attention back to your center. Find your center, focus on your center, and breathe in and out deeply.
As we continue breathing and living from our center, we check in with ourselves.
Let’s reflect on a few questions. As we go through each question, there will be a brief pause for you to reflect.
How is my body feeling?
How is my heart feeling?
How is my soul feeling?
What are my needs?
How can I get my needs met?
Finally, we come back to our center. We breathe in and out deeply. We move through the day knowing that we can always return to our breath and our center.
Every December I pause to do some reflection on the past year. This is a simple practice that allows me to pay attention to important things that I would probably miss otherwise. I carve out some focused time, and sit with a journal, pen, and some questions. I do this in a posture of listening with God, aware that contemplation with the Creator can often lead to surprising insights and ways of seeing that I didn't have before.
To be honest, there is a lot of resistance I feel about looking back on this year. I experienced a lot of loss, grief, and ambivalence in 2021. So as I reflect on this year, I do it fully knowing that God is in those spaces of loss too. And I do it with gentleness and kindness toward myself.
I invite you to do some of your own end of the year reflection. If you want, you can use my reflection questions below. Or of course you can decide on your own version.
End of Year Reflection Questions:
Hello there! I want to share a few things I've been working on recently.
Guided Contemplative Prayer
I created a guided prayer called Sacred Presence. It's a 5-minute guided contemplative audio, creating a simple way to slow down and experience the presence of God in your everyday life. You can listen to it during a prayer time, on a walk, or wherever you find space in your day. You can get the audio (mp3) here: Sacred Presence
Our New Podcast
Just for fun, my husband, Steve, and I started a podcast. It's aptly called "Steve and Larissa - a Podcast" and the episodes are essentially casual conversations about mundane everyday life stuff (fun things we're into) and also important things (like how we're managing life during the pandemic). This podcast is our way to connect, share our experiences, and have honest conversations with lots of laughter. If you want to listen to the podcast, go to steveandlarissapodcast.transistor.fm or subscribe on your favorite podcast app like Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Hawaii Spiritual Directors Website
Hawaii has a diverse community of wonderful people who serve as spiritual directors and companions. For the last few years, I've had the pleasure of helping with some behind-the-scenes things, including creating and hosting a website to help Hawaii folks find a spiritual director, retreat center, or info on upcoming events.
In my own journey, I've been finding new and beautiful ways of encountering the Presence of the Divine. A lot of that has been through meeting with my spiritual director and therapist, parenting our kids, getting liberated from theology that is rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy, meeting God in creation, and moving through lots of grief and loss this year. I'm struck by both the beauty and pain of this life, and grateful for a God who is in it all with us.
My heart continues to be invested primarily in helping guide people in their spiritual journeys, and making space for people to encounter God's presence. I hope wherever you are in your faith, you have the support and tools you need. If you're searching for a spiritual director, feel free to connect with me!
Do you want to stay updated? Please join my mailing list to sign up for my once-in-a-while newsletter. Sign up here: spiritualjourney.activehosted.com/f/1
You can also find me on Instagram @larissalmarks
Aloha! I'm Larissa. I help others go deeper in the faith journey with God.
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