2021: “Breathing in” and “Breathing out”

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Finally, it’s 2021. We did it—we survived 2020. It was by no means easy, and it involved considerable loss of life and suffering, and a huge disruption of “normal” in our lives. But we somehow muddled through tweets and uncertainty, outrage and fear and, literally, concerns about life and death. So take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.

Although 2020 is now officially part of history, “it ain’t over yet”—we still have carry-over challenges. But I think it’s important to note that as rough as 2020 was, there were some gifts the year brought us that hopefully we can also carry over. This blurb from CNN’s “The Good Stuff” email (December 19, 2020)1 sums it up nicely:

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that kindness and compassion have never been more important. It’s taught us that difficult times are made easier when we work together, when we take care of each other; when we reach out a hand to those struggling and lift up the heroes who protect us. It’s taught us that the best way through the darkness is to look for the light — and if there is none, to make it ourselves.

In 2021, I urge you to build up the good and positive (vs. getting bogged down by the negative), and if you can’t find the “light” then BE the light/Light yourself. You can make a huge difference by what you choose to do. Because we have a lot to do. And I think it will involve “breathing in” and “breathing out” . . .

Several years ago I read The Rhythm of Compassion: Caring for Self, Connecting With Society by Gail Straub. I can’t find the book now (a consequence of our interstate move last year) but I found a good overview on harvard.com:

The core premise of this book is that the health of the human psyche and the health of the world are inextricably related, and we cannot truly heal one without healing the other. The book is written to help readers balance soul and society . . . this is a book for those who long to make a difference in the world and search for a way to balance self-care with service to the world. Using the profound metaphor of in-and-out breath meditation, Straub compellingly invites the reader to connect with the in-breath of self-knowing and the out-breath of acting to heal others.

So healing self and society involves a “rhythm” of breathing in and breathing out. And from my personal experience, a rhythm or balance between the two is important: during our first eight or so years in the tiny Colorado Rocky Mountain town we used to live in, I went waaay overboard on volunteering. I served four years on the town board, six years as chairperson for the annual July 4th celebration (with its many, MANY events), and led several town initiatives, including emergency preparedness in case of wildfire or flood—all while still working full time.

I spent those years continuously breathing out until I was so drained and burned out, I ended up basically hibernating for three long years to recuperate and recharge. My emotional and physical selves ultimately demanded that I restore a balance to my Being that I hadn’t been implementing myself.

You also may have experienced such a lack of balance between breathing in and breathing out at some point in your life. But even further, before our national and global 2020 stay-at-home, I posit that life’s many distractions may have kept us from doing either type of breathing effectively at all, let alone finding a balance.

But now over these winter months we have the perfect opportunity for a dedicated breathing in period of self-reflection and self-care before life explodes out again. I urge you to take advantage of this quiet time to “get your house in order,” physically yes, but especially emotionally and spiritually. In my various blog posts I’ve asked you to do a lot of self-reflection and self-care, for example:

  • identify your values, talents/gifts, and experience; and traditions that have outlived their usefulness;
  • analyze your “visible and not” challenges;
  • explore the guideposts (so far) on our Path to Oneness: forgiveness, trust, compassion, connection, tolerance, and respect;
  • “Be of the world but not in it”—rise above the anger and the drama; stay informed but sometimes take a break from the news and go sit in the sun or take a walk;
  • have change work for you vs. against you; and
  • begin/continue listening to your own inner knowing.

So I suggest you continue with self-reflection. But be aware that I’ve been getting a hint of “guidance” that there may be a shift in my blog posts over the upcoming weeks and months—maybe to more breathing out. Remember the questions I’ve posed in several blog posts:

Who do we want to be as a country?
Who do we want to be as Humanity?

Using what we’ve witnessed and learned during the past few years about what needs to be healed or fixed in our society, I think in 2021 we’ll begin to really answer these questions, and to implement our answers in renewed breathing out even as we continue breathing in.

In the meantime, yes, some “homework,” especially during these first weeks of the new year:

* As part of your “breathing in” self-reflection, peruse the list of previous blog posts on the Home page, and let your inner knowing guide you to re-read one and do that post’s “homework.”
* Then pick another post and homework. And maybe another.


Start/continue listening to your inner knowing’s guidance, maybe by doing daily stream-of-consciousness writing on your “Muse stream” as described by author and writing/life coach Mark David Gerson2, or “morning pages.”

If we could get through 2020, we can get through anything. For now we need to remember the words of John Bare who lost his wife to COVID in September3:

“ . . . trust the journey.”

We need to allow the process to unfold, and contribute to it when and how we can. Better days are coming. Maybe not next week or next month, or even the month after that. But I believe they’re coming. We’ll get though this. We always do.

So HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Enjoy the last of the eggnog, maybe some more champagne, or go outside and howl at the vestiges of the full moon. Then let’s get to work. Let’s start with breathing in self-reflection, soul learning, and wound healing; then at some point, we’ll add more breathing out to begin to heal Humanity’s wounds and rebuild broken governments, institutions, and society at large—with each of us eventually finding our own balance between breathing in and breathing out.

BTW—breathing in with self-reflection and self-care during these winter months doesn’t mean you can’t do any breathing out. So reach out to connect with friends and family, continue to do acts of kindness, like contributing (if you can) all or part of your latest stimulus check to a food bank or other charity, etc. Get creative! As always, be guided by your inner knowing.


1 The Good Stuff sign-up page for CNN’s weekly “good news” email (to balance out all the upsetting other news!)

2 The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write book by Mark David Gerson

3 The winners of the post-Trump era, 2020 lessons for the new year online CNN article

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