Room to breathe

‘Those were the broad days! … And the
smell of the air! I used to spend a week
just breathing.’

Treebeard, from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

You must always have something to do. You must always fill every nook and cranny with fuss and bustle and busyness. Or, failing that, with the screenful fug of distraction. Don’t you ever dare take time to reflect. Don’t you ever dare give yourself room to breathe. Don’t you ever dare be idle, or let the dust settle, or daydream. And, oh, you want to complain about your wellbeing?

We have been conditioned to fear spaciousness. Far better to distract ourselves than feel deeply. Far easier to wash ourselves in the endless stream of content than confront the really real.

Yet every week that goes by without true rest, the toxins of toil build up in our souls. Every week that goes by in which we do not reach shakingly into our feelings, the un-aliveness seeps further into our bones.

For the sake of our souls, we have to stop. For the sake of our being, we must revolt against the tyranny of ‘do’ and ‘distract’ and instead build a thousand heavens of ‘be’.

We must cultivate spaciousness; re-learn doing nothing. Not occasionally. Not as a treat. Not as a last resort in response to burnout. It has to be a rhythm. Deeply embedded. Never avoided. Regular and non-negotiable. For the longer we go without, the less real, the less human we become.

So may the broad days find you again.
May the savour of larger, greener airs suffuse you.
And may you spend a week just breathing.

Gideon Heugh

This reflection was taken from my ‘Lord of the Rings at Lent’ devotional series. Follow me on Instagram @gideon.heugh for more.