Spiritual rhythms are like bodily rhythms: respiration requires both inhaling and exhaling, taking in and letting go. – Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction
Breathing is perhaps the oldest and most widely accepted spiritual practice that involves the whole mind-body-spirit being. Aside from Buddhist and Zen uses of focused breathing to enhance mediation, Christians have long used breathing as prayer practice, perhaps the most well known of which is the Jesus Prayer.
The Jesus Prayer is a simple, repetitive prayer to be used as you breathe in and out:
Inhale: Lord Jesus, Son of God,
Exhale: have mercy on me, a poor sinner.
A simple Google search of “Jesus Prayer” pulls up a number of very helpful descriptions and guides for breath prayer, so I won’t reinvent the wheel. What I want to point out is this:
We have been created for rhythm and ritual, repetition and regularity. Just as our bodies depend on the pattern of heartbeat and inspiration/expiration to function and remain alive, so our spiritual selves depend on patterns of spiritual practice to function and remain alive to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
This is who we are. We are mind-body-spirit beings. We are creatures of habit. We are soothed by the rhythmic sound of rain or waves. We reduce stress with slow, steady breathing and periodic times of quiet.
We meet God in the most ordinary, uninspired moments. We come alive with the breath of God. God comes to walk with us in the garden, to enjoy our company in the cool of the evening. All we have to do is be available and attentive, recognize the presence of God in our daily experience, and open ourselves to the tingly rinse of the Holy Spirit within us.
It’s as easy and natural as breathing in and out and in. It’s who we are. It’s who we’ve been created to be.
Next time the world feels like it’s crashing in on you, next time you’re stressed out and rushing, next time it all feels like too much — take a moment, and breathe.