Breathing 002

You’re not breathing properly;

here’s why it matters

Alison Bowen


Criticizing breathing seems a bit unfair. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether we are inhaling and exhaling correctly. It comes naturally, right?

Well, sure. But changing the way we breathe brings added health benefits.

“Breathing is natural, but we rarely get it right,” says Elizabeth Peyton-Jones, author of “Cook Yourself Young.” She said breathing correctly positively contributes to a person’s mental state, which is important to overall health. It helps calm the mind, which can rest the body.

“Breathing, which actually should be quite normal, in fact, is not really normal,” Peyton-Jones said.

Whether you’re sitting at a desk, waiting for a bus or relaxing at home, breathing correctly is important.

“People tend to breathe quite shallow,” said Peyton-Jones. “Some people hardly breathe at all.”

“You actually can’t see their chest or their stomach moving, and you don’t feel the breath coming out of their mouth” she said. “It’s so shallow … it’s hardly noticeable.”

If you’re not breathing deeply, you’re not getting enough oxygen, she added, and “not pumping oxygen around the body like you should.”

When breathing correctly, energy levels are high, and neck and shoulders are relaxed, which can help with digestion, she said.

Picture inhaling and exhaling deeply, watching your belly push itself in and out. This helps you focus on the act of breathing — and meditation.

Even focusing for just five breaths can lead to improvement.

“If you just concentrate on where you’re getting the breath from, it gets deeper,” she said.

Breathing 002

Breathing 001

A Small Needful Fact

by Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Say What

by My Brightest Diamond

Breathing 001

Context and Dirt

Everyone operates within a system of belief that makes sense of their particular context.  We create a system of belief based upon our context, we act in accordance with this system, and witness results from these actions that reform or further establish our system. People in the white and Christian suburbs can live with white suburban Christianity.  This is not primarily because they believe it is flawless but because it makes the most sense out of the world as they see it. Racial minority Christians in a city have a radically different system of belief, not necessarily because it is the most logically or rationally sound option but because it makes sense with their story and their observable context. Faith is always contextualized in a particular time and place and yet every brand and denomination of believers in history have appealed to scripture, context, history, or some other “transcendent” category to ground (or perhaps lift) their brand and market it as the correct, complete, or most compelling one.

Suburban white intellectuals might appeal to transcendent categories such as articulate, expositional preaching, translation, biblical scholarship, or tradition in order drive their stake deep into the ground of timeless theological truth.

The black oppressed minorities of Chicago might appeal to transcendent categories such as gospel stories of Jesus’ mercy, God’s promises of justice, they may point to history, oppression, the observable need for social justice and the work of the Holy Spirit to raise their flag on the ground of justice for the oppressed.

The young urbanite Christian may look at their gay, lesbian, transgender, and otherwise socially oppressed friends and appeal to transcendent categories such as mercy, love and compassion, and the radically inclusive claims of the gospel, or they may set scripture aside altogether in an effort to be like Jesus and unconditionally love their precious neighbors with no feelings of altering motives. Here they ground their worldview on the streets and neighborhoods where the lost, oppressed, and marginalized of society live.

The old husband and wife who have just celebrated their 40th year on their dairy farm in rural Iowa may appeal to transcendent categories such as tradition, the Solomonic blessings for the upright and pure, the beauty of the earth and the natural revelation of God in it as they look to their beloved friends, their small church, their community, their beautiful family farm and attribute their material blessings to a gracious Father in heaven who, while maybe distant, maybe somewhat impersonal, has long been good to them and to their family.

Everyone operates within a system of belief that makes sense of their particular context.

For all of his stodgy, obtuse, cultureless, unempathetic, cerebral-ness, the white suburban Christian is grounded in the worldview which makes the most sense to him based on his context.

For all of her loud music, raw mannerisms, recklessness, harsh speech, engagement in social unrest, hatred of the police and general distrust of whites, the black minority Christian is grounded in a worldview which makes the most sense out of her context.

For all of her liberal theology, dismissal of biblical passages, distrust of Christians, hatred of platitudes and self help and everything that smells of Christianese, the young urbanite Christian is grounded in a worldview which makes the most sense out of her context.

For all of his racist comments, unintellectual or anti intellectual beliefs, unthinking adherence to theology, patriarchal practices and hatred for change, the Iowa farmer Christian is grounded in a worldview which makes the most sense out of his context.

Maybe our appeals to transcendent categories fall on deaf or offended ears to individuals in any context but our own. Maybe things only truly make sense from another perspective when our stories are grounded in that perspective literally and geographically. Maybe in order to understand someone deeply, we must feel the ground of their belief. We must see the fruitful families of happy children in the suburbs, hear the joy and life in the black neighborhood, taste the excitement for life and community in the urbanite’s large world, and we must put our hands deep in the Iowa soil and smell the earth.

If the Iowa farmer does all of the necessary steps to prepare the ground, sow the seeds, and water the field, with some cooperation from the weather there will be food for his livestock.  To say that this impacts his theology is an understatement.  His world operates on the tried and true principle that when you add A to B you get C with very little deviation.  The black urbanite woman’s system is not so fool proof.  She may add A to B and get shot.  She may do all of the “correct” things and still be raped.  To say that this impacts her theology is an understatement.  Her view of God is vastly different than the Iowa farmer and it is entirely informed by her experience.  We create a system of belief based upon our context, we act in accordance with this system, and witness results from these actions that reform or further establish our system.  Maybe our appeals to transcendent categories fall on deaf ears to individuals outside of our context because our context is the ground of our systems.

As I write this I feel a particular affinity to some of these categories over others. I feel pain in my chest and a tightening in my throat when I write about those who I see as closed-minded and stuck, unintellectual, racist, or blindly adhering to theological claims with implications that hurt people I love. Categories within each of these categories make me deeply angry. That is my groundedness. I am perhaps trapped, perhaps blessed with a particular context and that context had created a worldview that makes sense to me. If I had two moms or if I had grown up in the projects or if I had not had the opportunity to go to college or had come into this world as the son of a farmer in rural Iowa, I would make sense of my world in a dramatically different way. Maybe my throat would tighten and my chest would hurt when I thought about the dismissal of scriptural claims, the liberalization of Jesus and a cheapening of scripture to mere social justice. Perhaps I wouldn’t think about any of those things in those terms but would instead feel angry because my conservative father felt angry and that is all I know. We make sense of the world in the way which seems best to us. And we appeal to higher categories to ground or elevate us to a groundless and contextless status of inerrancy.

Context and Dirt


I so often dream of my future and the future of my people as one of inclusion, acceptance, and peace.  We talk about this a lot.  We speak of love, tolerance, and peace and we look at our long history of mistakes and breathe a sigh of relief that we are past the horrors that we once inflicted.  Colonization, trails of tears, reservations, pointless wars, and Christianization of “barbarians” all form a very bad taste in the back of our collective palette which we try and cleanse with Aeropressed coffee and Instagramed homemade bread.  Our narrative of exclusion, violence, and subjugation is one of a dark and distant past.  But is it?  My coffee, the ingredients that make my bread, the shirt on my back, the computer I am typing on… Am I certain that my  pleasure does not come at the cost of another’s life?  Does my success in America nothing to do with the subjugation of hispanic workers who are giving their lives for the raspberries that I disinterestedly plop on my ice-cream?  Does my socio-economic success as a 23 year-old white male have nothing to do with the complete lack of opportunity for the 23 year-old Black-American male?  Does my advancement in society have nothing to do with the long history and present reality of sexism in my country and in my Christian community?  Inclusion, acceptance, and peace within my small world and within the larger world always come at the cost of another.  We, the privileged– like the residents of the capitol in Hunger Games– have pushed suffering out from under our noses so that the stench of the sweatshops, the homeless, the jobless, the marginalized, the illegals, and the oppressed might not reach our noses and might not sour our tongues.  As Miroslav Wolf says, this narrative “is not about barbarity ‘then’ as opposed to civilization ‘now,’ not about evil ‘out there’ as opposed to goodness ‘here.’ Exclusion is barbarity within civilization, evil among the good, drive against the other right within the walls of the self”  (Exclusion and Embrace, 60).


Aspen Grove

The super bowl yesterday was full of references to tolerance, love, equality, and other such subliminal and explicit messages.  From the subtle inclusive messages of car commercials to the massive “Believe In Love” sign spanning the crowd, yesterday was full of love.  But for me this raises a question: why?  At the end of the performance Chris Martin sang, “No matter where you are, we’re in this together.”

I think there is more truth to this statement than I initially gave Martin credit for.  Thomas Merton, in his book Seven Story Mountain says this:

…Since no man ever can, or could, live by himself and for himself alone, the destinies of thousands of other people were bound to be affected, some remotely, but some very directly and near-at-hand, by my own choices and decisions and desires, as my own life would also be formed and modified according to theirs.  I was entering into a moral universe in which I would be related to every other rational being, and in which whole masses of us, as thick as swarming bees, would drag one another along towards some common end of good or evil, peace or war. (p.12)

“No matter where you are, we’re in this together.” I am responsible for my community.  As soon as I imagine that I am not, I begin dragging others away from the common end of good that we all seek.  I had an orchestra director one that said,

“You must come to an orchestra with your individual vision of beautiful sound.  The work of making music together is to unify our individual visions of sound into a corporate vision of sound.  Your individualism is vital.  If you do not come here with a vision, you will drag this group toward mediocrity.”

Like a grove of Aspen trees, we have all originated from the same tree and we are all connected in our roots.Zebra Stand - H

Aspen Grove