Life / The Refined Collective

The Refined Collective // Just Breathe


Photos c/o Morgan Ashley Jo for Anthropologie

Selah is a Hebrew word found throughout the ancient poetry book of the Psalms.  The Psalms have always inspired me because the authors are so relatable.  They blissfully cry out to God in one moment, and in the next breath utter their despair and angst.  It makes me feel a little more normal toknow people who wrote such profound literature were emotionally all over the place.  They were full of doubt and fear and also faith—I can relate.

A few years ago I decided to look up the meaning of selah.  I would read through a psalm I liked, and breeze past it without a second thought.  Only in hindsight do I see how ironic this is!

When the author ended a thought of particular importance he inserted the word selah.  It’s an invitation to be still and reflect.  Somehow the author knew we would breeze through the poetry like we breeze through life:  rarely stopping to be present to the moment at hand.

Maybe it’s because he, too, struggled with flying through his thoughts and days.

Finding this out changed the way I read the Psalms.  Whenever I noticed a poem had the word selah in it, I’d get excited to practice its meaning.  Instead of rushing through I tried to linger.

I began to physically practice it by breathing the word.  Inhale ‘Se’ exhale ‘Lah’.  Try it.

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth

gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the

heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Selah. (Psalm 46:1-3)

Inhale Se.

Exhale lah.  

Even just typing it feels restful and relaxing.

This helped me slow down my reading and be more mindful to what the writer was saying and feeling.  And as I began to implement this, the idea of selah began to seep into the other parts of my life.  Selah became so impactful that a few years ago I got a tattoo of the word on my left forearm.

The other day I practiced selah with a few friends.

I woke up to a summer rain – and when it rains I just want to stay in bed all day and snuggle and watch movies.  But I opened my window and as I smelled the rain, and heard the drops splatter onto the balcony I suddenly wanted to feel it on my body.

When I was a little girl my sisters and I loved when it rained in the summer.  Mom would let us play outside in our bathing suits.  We’d stand under the drainpipes and let the water (which I’m now positive was dirty and disgusting) wash over us.  It was exhilarating.

I couldn’t remember the last time I played in a warm rain, but I had things to do, emails to write, photos to edit, so I sat at my computer.  But I kept looking longingly out my window.  After a few minutes I ran downstairs to my friend’s apartment and asked her to play in the rain.  My argument must have been strong, because a few minutes later we were running in the middle of the street splashing in puddles.  We weren’t out there for long, and when we made our way back into the A/C we were sopping wet and shivering.  But I had a smile on my face that wouldn’t leave.

We chose to immerse ourselves in the gift that is this moment.

When was the last time you paused?  When have you felt most present or rested?  It’s easy to get swept away in tasks that take us steadily through the day until we check Instagram as we turn our lights out at night.  But what if we started to practice selah?  Whether that’s reading an actual psalm, or taking a 5 minute walk, or turning your phone on airplane mode for an hour and being fully present to dinner with a friend.

When we learn to be still, breathe, and linger, we learn life is more about being than doing.



This series is apart of The Refined Collective.  Be sure and check out the other ladies and their thoughts on this topic too:  Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Tutti del Monte, Nikia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow, Tonhya Wysong, Joanne Encarnacion.


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