Have you ever noticed that when you’re anxious, or agitated, or even just preoccupied with your thoughts, you’re likely not breathing as deeply or well as is really advisable? There’s a reason the age-old guidance for pausing before reacting under stress is “take a breath.” Strange that an autonomic bodily function can be so readily disrupted by thoughts and feelings—that we can be “in our heads” rather than being fully present in our bodies.
Integration involves body, mind, and spirit, and all three dimensions are vitally interdependent. Spiritual practices that involve conscious attention to breathing emphasize how calming, energizing, and rejuvenating such a simple focus can be.
I took a tiny, too-creaky-to-call-baby step back into yoga yesterday, and though my limbs were protesting, my being was awakened by the conscious connection of breathing with every movement. And in facilitating devotional and singing times around our campus today, I’ve been more aware and grateful of how necessary it is for us to breathe, in order to pray, or speak, and certainly in order to sing. One dear lady joined a circle of singers in a pretty sour mood—but when I invited us all to take a few nice deep breaths, she exhaled loudly, smiled broadly and said, “There—that’s better!”
The Hebrew word for “Spirit” is the same as the word for “breath”—and from the first stories of the Creator’s breathing life into creatures, we have come to image our very being in terms of that infusion of Spirit energy—mysterious in its origin, as immense as creation, and yet as real and accessible as the breath in our bodies.
Sometimes life can seem so complicated and challenging that we literally forget to breathe fully and well. Sometimes the connection to “better” can be as simple as remembering to breathe.
I’m grateful for that reminder, today.