Breathe in rejuvenation. Breathe out stress and negativity. Breathe in balance. Breathe out constriction. Sanda Balaban was feeling the pressure of busyness and burnout — something that we’re all feeling in one way or another.

But Sanda did something a bit counterintuitive: she planned another Zoom call.

Over 40 participants logged on for what she called her “Civic State of the Union.” It was a creative take on the Civic Saturday style of gathering. It was a place to find support and rejuvenation in our practice of citizenship — of showing up for one another and our democracy. She created a breathing meditation to break out of the rut of back-to-back meetings and create a sacred place to reset.

“Breathe out cynicism and pettiness, breathe in light,” shared Marjory. “Breathe out strangers, breathe in neighbors,” said Seth.

Breathe out strangers, breathe in neighbors.

This meditation was anything but a meeting. Sanda shared the virtual stage with musicians and poets. She called upon pieces of “civic scripture” from writers and storytellers to prompt reflection on how to live our values and support each other with care and accountability.

Breathe it in.

“We come together to cultivate shared serenity amidst the civic storms,” Sanda said. “We’re here to contemplate and connect comfortably and deeply.”

Breathe it out.

In the weeks after the gathering, some participants repurposed this breathing meditation. They carved out time to be intentional about how they were showing up for each other, to take those breaths that we so often forget to take in between meetings. This practice is crucial if we want to sustain our ability to show up for our communities.

So if you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed, allow us to suggest you take the counterintuitive route that Sanda did. Plan a gathering that’s rejuvenating. Bring people together to create energy — not drain it. Breathe together, feel together, be together. They might have just the thing to help you out, and you might end up feeling a little more balanced.

Breathe it in. Breathe it out.

Sanda Balaban co-founded and directs cross-partisan youth civic engagement ventures Next Generation Politics and YVote, aiming to equip leaders of tomorrow for their roles and responsibilities as citizens shaping a more just world. Sanda is a Civic Saturday Fellow with Citizen University.

Want to attend a Civic Saturday gathering — or host your own?

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