In his book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, James Nestor reminds us that "humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly, with grave consequences." He presents vast amounts of research to support this claim. One of my favorite lines in the book, however, is when he says, "A last word on slow breathing. It goes by another name: prayer."
I am a shallow breather. I feel I am always running, always checking off the next box. I am learning in these days to breathe. It is easier said than done. Maybe you are like this as well. Take a moment right now and just take a full, deep breath. Pay attention to how different that is from your normal breathing.
We live in busy, busy times. We are bombarded by information. Our calendars are full. Our plates are spinning. We don't take time to fully breathe.
Author and former pastor Rob Bell says in his video Nooma Breathe, "Now for thousands of years, people have understood this physical breath that we all possess is actually a picture of a deeper reality. In the Bible, the word for breath is the same as the word for Spirit. In the Hebrew language it's the word ruah, and in the Greek language it's the word pneuma. One Scripture says that when God takes away the ruah, the breath, of all living creatures then they die and return to the dust. But when God sends the ruah, they are created. Breath, Spirit. Same word."
In my doctoral studies, I am learning about the benefits of breathing and prayer. Originally a monastic practice, the art of lectio divina invites us to slow down. In Latin, this phrase means "divine reading." It involves multiple readings of a passage from Scripture, prayer, meditation, and contemplation. An additional step is action - that the experience drives you in some way to make you or the world a better place, in small or large ways. It isn't as old fashioned as it sounds. It wasn't just for monks in ancient times. It isn't complicated. Rather, it is an invitation to us today to breathe - and to grow.
Meditation for Christians has been around for a very long time, but also has fallen out of fashion so to speak. Because of this, we have lost a valuable asset to our spiritual growth. Prayer isn't just meant to be us listing our needs, but an opportunity to sit quietly and listen for what God has for us.
I hope you will consider joining us for an upcoming Peace & Quiet session. No need to worry that our groups will be too "out there" or awkward - if you have any desire to cultivate some calm for an hour or so, you'll be in the right place. Learn how to breathe again in the midst of our crazy lives. And if a session isn't a match for you, consider finding ways to slow down and breathe deep in a way that does work for you.
The Christian spiritual journey is responding to God's invitation to personal encounter in love. Prayer is our response. - David G. Benner, Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer