I imagine you’ve figured out by now, that things don’t always go as you planned. You have your day mapped out, and a phone call changes everything. You have your career or job well in hand, and then a restructuring of your company leaves you packing up your office or desk in a box. A diagnosis demands you rethink and reorganize your life in a way you never imagined. A decision is made over which you have no control that nonetheless impacts you and those around you.

Things don’t always go as you planned.

I was reminded of this yesterday, amidst the torrents of rain and wind. A colleague and I were sitting together, reviewing some PowerPoint slides and getting ready to present to a group of D. Min. students gathered at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute, when a text came in. It was about a pastoral issue, and it required my immediate attention.

My mind began to race.

What about the group at St. Mary’s and the commitment I had made, to be with them? What about my colleague, who I had invited to do the presentation with me and had not planned to do it solo? What about the family that had just texted me, what state were they in?

I closed my eyes.

Inhale … Exhale … Breathe

(And then repeat: Inhale … Exhale … Breathe … Deeply … and then again … and again … )

I have found that this simple practice — of taking the time to stop, pause and mindfully, intentionally and consciously breathe — amidst the swirling and twirling of thoughts and wonderings that can flood in like a torrential downpour, when what you have planned collides with the reality of What Is — is a powerful tool. It helps “make space” for what is essential in that moment to rise to the surface, so you can realign your steps along the new path required.

Yesterday, for example, with each deep breath, the way forward revealed itself.

I need to go be with the family, now.

My colleague will be fine doing the presentation solo (and as it turned out, another colleague was able to “pinch hit” for me and help).

The group at St. Mary’s will understand.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the Spirit guiding us into truth, and I often reflect on what he said in connection with this practice of mindful, intentional, deep and conscious breathing.

So if things don’t go just as you planned for them to go, today (or tomorrow, or the next …) …

Stop. Breathe. Listen.

And let the Spirit of God guide you into truth.