During my junior year of college, I decided to take a semester of ballet. Though I was a Notre Dame student, I was a theatre major and, during the 1980s, most of the theatre courses were held at Saint Mary’s College. That’s also where the dance classes took place. Why not take another class over there?
I love ballet, but the class was a challenge, to say the least. Think of all those movie tropes where the klutzy girl tries to perform with the lithe, experienced dancers, or auditions with the wickedly popular and peppy cheerleaders. Those were my classmates. I really was terrible.
Somewhat of a menace with two feet on the ground, just imagine what happened when I tried to balance on one. I was like a top twirling helplessly out of control and always into something—a person, a curtain, a chair.
Fast forward twenty or so years: a work colleague invited a group of us to join her in a yoga class after work hours. Like ballet, I decided to try it, knowing well my limitations.
First, we learned ujjayi breathing: breathe in through the nose, then make the sound of the ocean as you exhale. In and out, in and out, over and over again. Then we learned to time the movement of each pose with our breathing.
During the many evenings we spent together, we learned how to visualize our alignment, how to stack our vertebrae, and how to focus on which muscles should be doing what. We used our breath to find our “center” in our own bodies, that place of balance and peace.
Over time, we all got stronger. Our breathing and inner awareness helped us to focus on the present moment and notice where our bodies were in time and space. Strangely enough, the sense of balance that I thought I didn’t have revealed itself through yoga practice.
Why? In the end, it was pretty simple. I learned how to focus my mind on the basic elements of breath and body awareness. That meant I had to let go of the layers of chaos that kept my head judging the past and anticipating the future, leaving no awareness of where I was in the present moment.
Each of this week’s CatholicsRead titles reinforces this lesson: that to find balance in our lives of faith, we must know what we believe and seek always to live it, rooted in today. The word “basic” sometimes gets a bad rap, but “basic” can mean finding our foundation—like breathing helps us find our core—and standing firmly on it.
There are few prayers as much like breathing as the Our Father. In Twenty-Third Publications’ A Fresh Look at the Our Father: Rediscovering the Power of the Lord’s Prayer, Fr. David Knight brings his famously fresh, inspiring, and often exciting insights to the prayer Jesus taught. By savoring each word, rolling it around in our heads, we can take the Lord’s Prayer into our hearts.
During Lent, we hear repeatedly the call to conversion and healing. In Abide from Ave Maria Press, Heather Khym of the “Abiding Together” podcast shares scripture, essential Catholic teaching, and the author’s personal healing journey to reintroduce you to God as the Divine Healer, Restorer, and Miracle Worker.
I can’t think of a better title than this one: Finding Flow from Paulist Press. This book adds a spiritual element to current discussions by psychologists, athletes, and creatives about “flow,” which author Brian J. Plachta defines as being one with the Divine Spirit who opens our hearts, allowing us to experience inner peace, balance, and wholeness.
One of the benefits of finding balance is the ability to sit comfortably in the “everyday-ness” of life. Author Frederick Bauerschmidt in How Beautiful the World Could Be: Christian Reflections on the Everyday from Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing reinforces this: “We have no choice but to find ourselves at a particular place in a particular moment.”
Balance can also lead you to the ability to Let Go of Your Fear. This book by Gary Zimak from Ave Maria Press explores two Gospel stories of Jesus calming storms—and his disciples—to show how to manage the big feelings of fear in our lives by living centered on Jesus’ presence.
Living Faith: Prayers For Catholics from Creative Communications for the Parish share over 100 Catholic prayers that, like the Our Father, bring us back to the firm “base” of familiar Catholic prayers, including the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, mealtime graces, and prayers for Eucharistic Adoration.
With the help of these resources, finding balance in the life of faith can be as simple as coming back to your breath.
Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.