Teach us how to breathe

I am occasionally reminded of a beautiful line in the Gospel according to St. Luke, 11:1, where Jesus prays to God asking to be taught how to pray. Jesus asks not what to pray for; he does not pray for this or that. He asks how to pray.

I think we need similar instruction about breathing: Dear God: teach us how to breathe.

Teach us how to breathe beautifully. Teach us how to breathe truly.

Teach us how to breathe deeply. Teach us how to breathe in spirit.

Teach us to take in a breath that is connected to a healing spirit.

In many languages, the words for breath and spirit are connected. I am reminded of this when I look at our word: Respiration. In the middle of that word, respiration, the very process of breathing, is spirit.

The Bible begins with the wind/breath/spirit hovering above the waters. We do not breathe air. We breathe in spirit.

Omid Safi, Learning How to Breathe Again


One of the oldest Muslim mystical sayings talks about the process of achieving a more refined spiritual consciousness consisting of the following steps:

Hoosh dar dam: To become mindful and aware of one’s breath

Nazar bar qadam: To have one’s eyes on one’s feet. Literally, to watch where you are and where you are heading

Khalvat dar anjoman: To maintain a practice of solitude and full presence, even and especially in the midst of the hustle and bustle of crowd

It all begins with becoming aware of the breath.

Omid Safi, Learning How to Breathe Again

Keep your practice simple

In meditation, the practice of calming, resting, and dwelling  happily in the present moment can be difficult at first, because our minds are always racing. The more you try to stop your racing mind, the more it resists. Mindfulness is not meant to suppress or get rid of the racing mind, but simply recognize its presence. First you need to recognize that thinking nonstop has become a strong habit for you. The easiest way to stop that habit from taking you over is to learn how to breathe in a sitting position for a short time, for just five or ten breaths. If you think you have to practice meditation for too long a period of time, there is no way you will maintain a daily practice. Instead throughout the day, use the ringing of the telephone, or the sound of your watch, or any other cue,  to stop all doing and thinking  for a moment. Just enjoy your breathing. Our son started sitting when he was three or four years old. He sat for ten breaths every morning. And if a little child can do that, I am sure we grown-ups can do it as well.

Nguyen Ann-Huong, Walking Meditation