by Marissa C. Knox, PhD
Photo credit: Marissa C. Knox, PhD

I’m currently in a major life transition– adjusting to a new home in a new state with a new job in an entirely new environment – and I’ve been waiting to exhale until I finally feel settled. I’ve told myself that I can finally relax once I get through a full year of living and working here, experienced all four seasons of weather, successfully taught classes for two semesters, and I’ve figured out all of my new routines, and generally have “it” all together.

And until then? I guess I’ll just brace myself and hold my breath.

Well, it may not be surprising, but this plan has not been working very well.

In fact, I have only made it this far precisely because I have forced encouraged myself to exhale and rest. It has become undeniably clear that without rest, nothing else is possible.

Allowing myself the freedom to exhale, especially in moments when time seems scarce, has become a gateway to new opportunities. When I give myself the chance to rest, to step back from constant activity, and to re-engage with my inner self, I find a sense of belonging and comfort, even in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s in these moments of pause and reflection that I am reminded of the creative possibilities that come with change. It opens up avenues for making fresh choices and engaging with the unfolding mystery of my life, embracing each new turn with anticipation and openness.

Rest rarely looks like taking a nap, but more often it looks like a moment in the midst of completing a task where I bring my hand to my heart and take a few deep breaths, focusing on long, slow exhales to calm my nervous system. Often I am prompted by the cues of impatience or sadness, and it is then in the painful twinge of emotion when I give myself a brief moment to breathe and rest in the presence of love, reminding myself I am going to be okay. Many times I let myself rest by reaching out for support. We don’t get through hardships alone. Resting in the embrace of friendship and compassion from loved ones allows me to stop holding my breath and let myself be held by others.

No matter what is going on, I am learning about how rest is available in every breath. I am grateful for the natural letting go and blessing of softness in each exhale. I am practicing surrendering my expectations and judgments as I exhale so that my mind and heart are open to new perspectives and possibilities as I inhale. Each pause between breaths is another space to rest and begin again. This is how my breath is carrying me through.

I may feel overloaded by the many challenges that come along with adapting to change. I may not have control over how everything goes. I may not feel very good sometimes. This season of my life may continue to be hard for a while longer. And still, I have the simple, yet sacred gift of a slow, deep breath, a soothing exhale, an audible sigh, a hum of release.

Whatever season of life you may be in right now, we hope you will join Kelly Lindsey, Brooke Binstock, and me for a restorative and nurturing retreat this fall. As Brooke and Kelly have already shared in their writing, we hope this retreat will be a supportive space for you to receive what you need and desire so you can return to your daily life with greater access to your inner wisdom and a felt-sense of ease and gentleness. We invite you to give yourself permission to rest, to exhale deeply, and to receive abundant support from nature, contemplative practice, gentle movement, and precious time in community.

About the Author

Marissa C. Knox, PhD is a trained Mindful Self-Compassion teacher, researcher, and writer focused on supporting others to cultivate resilience, live with integrity, and embody compassionate wisdom. She is the author of g.r.a.c.e. and possibility, a book of poetry, contemplations, and self-reflective writing practices. In Marissa’s teaching and writing, she invites you to nurture a deeper connection to your wholeness, nature, and the miracle, mystery, and magic available in every moment.

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