Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Five Ways to Pray Always: Part 4, Breathing the Breath of God

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annunciation_webBreathing the Breath of God

One of the post-Resurrection accounts in John's Gospel says that Jesus extended his peace to the disciples and then breathed on them saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit." It is the very same breath of God that the Creator breathed into the nostrils of the very first human being, formed from the clay of the earth (Genesis 2:7). Every moment of every day we breathe in and out the very breath of God. Contemplative breathing is simply becoming aware of that Spirit-breath within us.

For centuries Buddhist and Hindu contemplatives have been observing the natural rhythm of their breathing as a way of experiencing their oneness with Ultimate Reality, with God. Christians have known this since ancient times, too. As the medieval Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart, said, "I will sit and be silent and listen to God's voice within me." God is as intimately close to us as our very own breath.

For many years the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has shared his very simple teachings on observing our in-breaths and our out-breaths with rhythmic mindfulness as a way of remaining fully in the present moment, "our true home." He says, "Peace is all around us--in the world, in nature and within us-in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace (through mindful breathing), we will be healed and transformed."

It works. It doesn't cost anything but a little effort and patience. One doesn't have to be a foreign missionary or a diplomat in the United Nations to be a peacemaker. We can practice mindful breathing when we get up in the morning and before going to bed at night, driving the car or waiting in the doctor's office, when we feel angry or when we are bursting with joy. We, like Jesus, can breathe peace into our troubled world, a peace that flows from the very center of our being. As St. Paul says, we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech (Romans 8:26).

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"Reprinted from' Five Ways to Pray', St. Anthony Messenger, copyright 2008. Used by permission of St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 800-488-0488. All rights reserved."

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