Breathe It Out

I’m standing in a rectangular room, a bright light overhead. There’s a window behind me, and a desk in the centre of the room.

I’m anxious — I can’t look out the window or even see the table, because the room is filled from floor to ceiling, every last inch of space, with sheets of paper.

On the paper are endless to-do lists, to-write lists, to-fix lists, and through the window the wind picks up in the room.

The sheets start to lift and spin, and soon I’m in the eye of a storm, a dizzying hurricane of paper whipping by.

As the wind and paper start to scream around me, and my panic rises, I hear a breath. One inhalation, one exhalation.


Unable to do anything else, I do as I’m told.

I breathe in, and breathe out. As I exhale, a small vortex appears in the floor, pulling a few sheets of paper down and out of the room.

I breathe some more. More paper disappears into the exhalation hole. I get into a rhythm, breathing, breathing, as the room slowly, slowly, starts to empty.

The lists start to shred in mid-air, and vanish. The wind stops its wailing, and light starts to filter through the window. I see a sliver of workable table top.

Soon enough, the room is clear. A few last sheets float away, leaving just a handful settled on the desk.

As the sun warms my back and a soft breeze wanders in, I have a delicious moment of clarity: this is all I have to do.

All that’s left on those sheets is what really matters: my loved ones, my health, the work that will be my legacy.

Everything else — all the distractions and ‘shoulds’ and expectations — has been stripped away. I’m completely free, weightless, and at peace.

* * *This scene has played out in my mind many times. It’s like an interactive daydream, emerging when I haven’t meditated enough recently or am feeling overloaded.

Sometimes it only takes a few minutes to breathe out the chaos in the room of my mind. Other times it takes half an hour, or more.

But no matter how long it takes, when I give myself the time, the calm and clarity always come.

Yesterday I said that you don’t luck into being a writer. And you won’t to-do-list yourself into being a writer either.

Writing, and all creative work, is about allowing your mind to settle on what really matters to you.

It’s about quieting down all the noise and nonsense and breathing deeply enough that you get a physical sensation of what deserves your attention and energy.

We live, as author-adventurer Erling Kagge termed it, in an age of noise. His book, Silence, is a meditation and quiet celebration of finding silence, both in our daily lives and within ourselves.

It’s a gentle book, but a powerful one, because it says what no amount of notifications, news articles or emails can:

You are already enough, and have the answers within you, and will find them if you can gift yourself those quiet moments.