The Thanksgiving of January

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2009

At New Year's we frequently take inventory of where we are and where we are going, getting our bearings.

This New Year is the same, and different. Anyone working is likely feeling fortunate in this atmosphere of rising unemployment regardless of their job, just to bring home a paycheck, and doubly grateful if they also get health benefits for themselves and their families, this January of thanksgiving.

America has hit bottom and together we take a deep breath, gathering our strength, uniting our strength even, to figure out where we go from here.

In every language there is a word like we have in our English language, one that means both inspiration and breathing or taking air into the lungs. Respiration. Re-spiriting. Balanced breathing is natural and without emphasis on the inspiratory phase or the expiratory phase.

Interestingly, the severe lung diseases from tobacco and other toxic exposures result not so much in failure to breathe in oxygen, but failure to breathe out. So without squeezing out the breath, without emptying the space, there is no room to breathe in. The lungs stay expanded, but breathless.

Letting go is the first step to change. Actually, noticing holding on comes right before the letting go. Just noticing helps us see the choices we have, to hold on, or to let go. Sounds so simple, yet it's a life's work fine-tuning and choosing, creating the life we really want, becoming who we are.

In 2008 we took a big turn. We let go, as a people, of previous biases and elected a different kind of president. On January 20, together the world breathes a new breath, washing out the political machinery. Respiriting, inspiring, room to expand again.

Try this for yourself: Notice. (anything) Breathe out, letting "it" go, whatever "it" is. Notice the tiny pause once the lungs are empty, the time out between the out and in phases of breathing. Then breathe in.

Repeat, simply noticing breathing for 5-10 minutes, or as long as you can hold your mind still noticing. You can do this several times a day if you like.

As you embark on 2009, as you get your bearings, try noticing more and more often, daily, moment by moment, everything. Noticing, without judgment, just noticing. And when you find yourself in a situation you want to change, use the breathing to respirit. Let go of the old, just noticing, and then notice the expansion of inspiring, or breathing in. Even with the questions, of where we go from here, together we will let go and live into the answers. Together we will change, grow, and change the world, one breath at a time.

• Dr. Maureen Longworth is a family physician certified in holistic medicine. She owns Alaska Holistic Family Medicine and also offers women's health clinics at Southeast Medical Clinic.

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