Breathing is an unconscious act. You do it by instinct because your body needs air for survival. Our bodies have their own “knowing” and take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide without our conscious brain having any involvement with it. Thank God for this! I could only imagine the horror that would follow if my feeble memory was in charge of breathing!!
Breath (noun) breth 1. the air inhaled and exhaled in respiration. 2. respiration, especially as necessary to life. 3. life; vitality 4. the ability to breath easily and normally. 5. time to breath; pause or respite. 6. a single inhalation or respiration. 7. the brief time required for a single respiration; a moment or instant.
I started meditating on a regular basis (I use the word “regular” pretty loosely here) about five or six years ago when I read a book on contemplative prayer by James Finley. Finley used Thomas Merton’s example of monastic prayer life and explained in layman’s terms the essence of what many other religions refer to as meditation. In its simplest definition, meditation is calmly sitting with God and noticing God’s presence in your life at that particular moment.
This is not something that comes as naturally as breathing. Because our mind is going at breakneck speed, getting our thoughts to stop racing so we can notice God is pretty difficult. Ironically, it’s noticing your breath and its natural ebb and flow that helps you release those racing thoughts and allows you to simply observe God’s presence.
It would be nice to sit in meditation 24-7 but not incredibly practical. The outstanding side effect of meditation is that during those inevitable times of stress or anxiety I can recall the feeling of noticing my breath for 15 minutes straight and more importantly, recollect God’s presence in my life. (Another favorite word – recollect. Collecting again. Memory is just that, gathering once again something I have never lost.)
Lately, I’ve been especially appreciative of this fairly new form of prayer in my life. It’s comforting to know that God has my back, but it’s a downright form of sustenance to feel it.
If you have not tried meditation, or contemplative prayer you might want to give it a shot. Start with some recorded guided meditations. The voice prompts will help your focus and the variety of topics can help you tailor it to your particular mood or situation. Below are a couple of good websites and apps I have found very helpful in getting started.
www.toolsforpeace.org – or look up an app on your smart phone or tablet called “Stop, Breathe & Think”
Occasionally Oprah Winfrey collaborates with Deepak Chopra on free 21 day daily meditation series. She has another free one coming up on Nov 2 and links can be found on www.chopracentermeditation.com
Other iphone/apple apps: Relax & Rest by Mary Maddux, Mindfulness Meditation by Hector Rodriquez Fronies and Insight Guided Meditations by Spotlight Six Software
Good luck and happy breathing!!!