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Taking a deep breath this New Year

When Martyn first came up with our strapline Breathe deeply, Rest quietly, Think clearly, I never realised how significant this would become to Treargel. A few weeks ago one of our guests in the Hermitage even said

'time seems to move slower here, which is just what I needed'.

January is a great time to slow down, retreat, and reset.

Here are some ideas from our recent Breathing Deeply Quiet Day at Treargel.

Breathing is good for you, obviously

I am learning that, not only is breathing more deeply good for your soul, it can help bring down high cortisol levels produced by stressful situations. For example during difficult meetings, hot flushes or when you lose the dog in a field of sheep. Again. Neo!!

Neo, our golden retriever on the south west coastal path.
Neo eyeing the sheep

Interestingly, in Sanscrit, the word for breath or respiration is prāṇa (प्राण) which means the breath of life, vital air and principle of life. It literally is life and death for us.

I wonder what breathing deeply looks like for you in your life? Sometimes I need to consciously stop myself and note my breathing. When the emails, To-Do lists, and expectations get too much. Below are some ways to do breathing exercises and conscious breathing for anyone who wants to practise taking time to sit with the unknown, be and just breathe. Great to do before the year gets busy again. For another great explanation of Mindfulness of Breathing, try this video by one of our Hermitage guests who works at the London Buddhist Centre. (She also sang a beautiful Tibetan chant for my birthday last year).

Some from the Christian tradition may also want to recall that the Hebrew name for God YAH WEH, sounds like a breath, life-giving and flowing through you. Below Richard Rohr and Rob Bell explain more.

Shallow breathing

I don’t always keep calm and breathe in the way that I want. What stops you from breathing deeply? Why not say ‘Hello’ to some of these things? Acknowledge them, as Padraig O'Tuama does, and don’t dwell on them. Let them go. Although, in our Quiet Day discussion we realised that sometimes, in order to let go, we needed to let someone down; others, ourselves, or God. Note how you feel about this.

S**t happens or The circle of life

I also find that circumstances and life aren’t always conducive to breathing in a measured manner. A lot of people have been sick this Christmas, electricity bills are not an easy read and don't get me started on the News. And yet, these are the natural ups and downs of life. We have to pick ourselves up and go again. Like inhaling and exhaling, each a mini dying and living again. The circle of life. You might like to chew for a while on one of the phrases I gave our guests.

  • ‘Every breath is give and take’. Gungor lyrics

  • The circle of life. Lion King lyrics

  • Life in all its abundance. John 10 v 10

  • C’est la vie.

  • A grain of wheat has to die and then ... John 12 v 24

  • Life - death - resurrection = continual transformation.

  • “I love stories of resurrection, because I am someone who is desperate for second chances”. Nadia Bolz-Weber

Take time out

If doing these things at home just isn't enough, come to Treargel and take a retreat with us in the peace and beauty of Cornwall.

Book now for 2022 prices, as sadly these will go up from early January.


At Treargel we try to practice breathing deeply in our Weekly Meditation. Each Monday I sit with my neighbour and any guests that wish to join us, for half an hour's silence together. You too can join our group virtually via email or facebook, as I send out the prompt for our Silence in the morning.

We have a Quiet Day coming up on Tuesday 17th January titled Refuge and Sanctuary and another one on March 16th title tbc.

Plus, a day for remembering someone close in our Planting Memories day Wednesday 8th February. Please let me know if you are interested in any of these events.

Naomi's dad carrying heavy loads on a yoke he carved.
All yoked up

Treargel Workparty

Alternatively, have a party with us, whilst also doing some gardening and practical jobs; for example, simple painting, weeding or pruning.

Free accommodation. Only a couple of places left, so book now. 25th - 28th March.

In Conclusion

It may just be me, but this year I feel I need to take a deep breath in order to face this New Year.

Perhaps I need to put into practice some of these tools myself.


Extra Resources

The YHWH Prayer from Richard Rohr

A rabbi taught this prayer to me many years ago. The Jews did not speak God’s name, but breathed it with an open mouth and throat: inhale—Yah; exhale—weh. By our very breathing we are speaking the name of God and participating in God’s breath. This is our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world.

Breathe the syllables with open mouth and lips, relaxed tongue:



During a period of meditation, perhaps twenty minutes, use this breath as a touchstone. Begin by connecting with your intention, your desire to be present to God. Breathe naturally, slowly, and deeply, inhaling and exhaling Yah-weh. Let your focus on the syllables soften and fall away into silence. If a thought, emotion, or sensation arises, observe but don’t latch on to it. Simply return to breathing.

You may be distracted numerous times. And perhaps your entire practice will be full of sensations clamoring for attention. Contemplation is truly an exercise in humility! But each interruption is yet another opportunity to return to Presence, to conscious participation in God’s life.

Taken from the Centre for Contemplation and Action daily meditations.

The YHWH Prayer from Rob Bell

“Some pronounce the name ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Yahveh,’ although in many traditions the name isn’t even pronounced, because it’s considered so sacred, so mysterious, so holy. In fact, the ancient rabbis believed that these letters actually functioned kind of as vowels in the Hebrew language. They believed that they were kind of breathing sounds and that ultimately the name is simply unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing. Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh. Is the name of God the sound of breathing?”

You can see more on Rob Bells Youtube videos.

Conscious breathing from Richard Rohr and Thick Nhat Hahn.

Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn (1926–2022) helped bring Buddhism and mindfulness to the West. His life offers an inspired example of the power of interfaith friendship. Here he gives instructions for a meditation to dwell in the present moment:

In our busy society, it is a great fortune to breathe consciously from time to time. We can practice conscious breathing not only while sitting in a meditation room, but also while working at the office, at home, while driving our car, or sitting on a bus, wherever we are, at any time throughout the day. We can recite these four lines silently as we breathe in and out:

Breathing in, I calm my body.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment!

“Breathing in, I calm my body.” Reciting this line is like drinking a glass of cool lemonade on a hot day—you can feel the coolness permeate your body. . . .

“Breathing out, I smile.” You know a smile can relax hundreds of muscles in your face. . . .

“Dwelling in the present moment.” While I sit here, I don’t think of anything else. I sit here, and I know exactly where I am.

“I know this is a wonderful moment.” It is a joy to sit, stable and at ease, and return to our breathing, our smiling, our true nature. Our appointment with life is in the present moment.

Or do it with Youtube

The Circle of Life

It's the circle of life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

'Til we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the circle

The circle of life

Breathing exercises

If you have a moment today, take some time to bring awareness to your breath;

  • feel the air going through your nose

  • the rise and fall of your stomach

  • notice how it feels

  • imagine the breath going through your body

  • all the way to your fingers and toes

  • what does this breath mean to you? Life, vitality?

  • start to count to 4 as you inhale

  • and 6 as you exhale

  • stay with this for a while, focusing on it

  • if you wish, count on every inhale up to 10

  • then backwards down to 1 again (this takes concentration)

  • then count on every exhale, and do the same.

  • At the end, slowly wiggle your fingers and toes and come back to the present

Other options for retreating at home

  • ‘Do’ nothing. Just Be. Abide. Rest. Nap.

  • Walk in nature or Walk the labyrinth

  • Wild writing - Timed eg 20mins, fast, for your eyes only, not thinking about grammar or punctuation, stream of consciousness, if possible write outside, with a view for perspective.

  • Brainstorm, mind map, spider diagram

  • Draw a picture, Colour in or doodle

  • Write a poem

  • Do something physical - write on a stone and throw it in the pond or bury it.


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