The first John O’Donohue’s book I read was The Four Elements. From the beginning I was riveted by his fresh approach to life and faith. In one of the blessings, In Praise of Air, which he wrote not long before he died, he says:
In the name of the air,
And the wind,
May our souls
Stay in rhythm
With eternal Breath.
It was this blessing that inspired my prayer above and has often formed the focus for my prayers and meditations over the last week. It also provided the inspiration for the set of breath cards that we have recently created.
What does it mean to live a life in rhythm with Eternal Breath?
I have always loved writing and using breathing prayers, even more so since I listened to Richard Rohr talk about the name of God being breathed rather than spoken. The breath of God sustains us, yet we rarely acknowledge or live in the awareness of it. We are often unaware of our physical breath too unless it is interrupted by allergies, pollution or illness.
Becoming aware of our breathing can have a huge impact on our lives. Doctors recommend that we deliberately take deep breaths at regular intervals throughout the day to aerate our lungs. It relieves tension, rids our body of toxins, boosts our energy and strengthens our immune systems.
It requires intentionality.
As any experienced hiker or runner knows, we move more easily when we synchronize our steps to our breathing. Again this is often a deliberate action, especially when we are just learning to pace ourselves. We consciously take our steps in rhythm with our breaths. Living in synch with the Eternal Breath is just as intentional. We must regularly remind ourselves to breathe deeply of the presence of God and that necessitates learning to pace ourselves. We must pause from our busy lives, centering ourselves on the eternal presence and attending to the rhythm of our breathing.
Question: How much attention do you give your spiritual breathing? What do you do on a regular basis to make sure it is in synch with the Eternal Breath?
It means slowing down.
When we walk up a hill, we know how out of condition we are if our breathing comes in short, painful gasps. Healthy hill climbing breathing is slow and regular.
I wonder at the spiritual analogy here. There is a tendency for us to grab for God when we are on an uphill climb, facing pressures, challenges and anxieties in our life and faith. Unless we have been doing regular spiritual exercises, keeping our breath in synch with the Eternal Breath we find ourselves unprepared, gasping for the holy air that seems thinner and less life giving than it should be. We know we are in synch with the Eternal Breath when we are able to breathe in and out of the presence of God at all times, with long, slow breaths that nourish us deep within our souls.
Question: How healthy is your spiritual breathing? Think back to the last life stress you faced. What was the rhythm of your spiritual breathing like during that time?
It requires deep breathing exercises.
I have talked before about the fact that as we grow older we breathe more shallowly and need to learn to take deep breaths that fully aerate our lungs and provide the health benefits that only deep breathing provides.
I wonder if our spiritual lives follow the same pattern. The longer we follow Christ, the easier it is for us to take our spiritual practices for granted. They become stale, rote, unproductive of the spiritual depths that connect to the heart of God. We need to take time to breathe deeply, to replenish our resources and renew our spirits.
Tom and I will shortly go on one of our quarterly prayer retreats, powerful deep breathing tools that help keep us in touch with God in a more intimate way. They enable us to restructure our lives and keep on focus with both our physical and spiritual disciplines.
Question: What are the deep breathing exercises your perform regularly to strengthen your spiritual muscles and maintain your life rhythm in synch with the Eternal Breath?
Listen to this beautiful poem by John O’Donohue. Allow it to enter your spirit and fill you with the Eternal Breath
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Also, don’t forget that many of my breathing cards are now available for purchase.