I am a woman who enjoys variety, especially when it comes to what I do with my time. This can be both positive and negative. Since retiring from professional golf several years ago, I work two part-time jobs, volunteer, travel, and most recently I am putting plans in place to enter full-time ministry. Being single allows me the goodness of this flexibility; however, I often get running so fast I don’t experience the fullness of each moment.
At one of my jobs, we do assessments that include looking at how well, or not so well, a client breathes. Oxygen is a precious commodity for our bodies and yet we rarely think about if we are getting enough. In our assessments, we look at the respiration rate, the rhythm of the breath, and how the heart is responding to each. When our respiration rate is too fast, not enough oxygen is entering the lungs. When we breathe slower with more depth, the heart gets the oxygen it needs and works more efficiently.
As a whole, our culture (the young and more seasoned) has poor breathing habits. God designed our bodies to use the diaphragm to fill our lungs with oxygen; however, we have taught ourselves to bypass this system for a more rapid, shallow pattern of breathing initiated from our chest muscles. The consequences include negative effects on our overall health.
I know what a quality breathing lifestyle looks like and how it feels, and yet I still fail daily at putting it into practice. As I engage in my desire for variety, the onslaught of busyness, deadlines, travels, and to do lists increase my internal tension and my awareness of maintaining a healthy breathing rhythm weakens.
Between January 21 and April 6 of this year (2014), I was away from home for 47 days as I traveled for work, ministry and family. Over this span of time, I prepared for a TV interview where I shared my story of harm, I had assignment and reading deadlines for my Lay Counseling Certificate Program, I wrote 2 devotionals, traveled to both the Winter Olympics (Russia) and southern California to share about Jesus, I watched my sister’s children for a week, friends came to visit, and I kept my house in order…barely. At moments it was challenging to hold the joy I experienced in all that God allowed me to do and experience. I felt like I was holding my breath as I went from one thing to the next.
When I arrived home on April 6, my 47th day away, I felt encouraged and I had a sense of accomplishment; I felt spent and depleted; I felt a long exhale begin to dispense from my body and a longing to breathe again – slow and deep.
Kindness for me over the next week included a few hours of work and making the choice to spend time with friends over my to do list. I still got things checked off the list, but more slowly while I said no to the accusations of failure.
Throughout that first week back home I was reminded that as I participate with God in writing my story, He desires me to stay in a state of breathing that brings life instead of death. This includes physically paying attention to breathing slower from my diaphragm, allowing my stomach to move in and out with each breath, and being aware of how I balance my work, travel, and play.
Tracy Hanson spent 15 seasons on the Ladies Professional Golf Tour. She is on a journey of embracing her beauty and living more deeply from her heart, and hopes to continue to share her story through full time ministry. Her hobbies include facilitating trips to the Holy Land, riding her motorcycle, the outdoors, and running. She also writes a monthly golf devotional on her website.