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

Not being afraid

As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche summarizes: “Ultimately, that is the definition of bravery: not being afraid of yourself.” Believing the seemingly non-stop, discursive commentary that courses through our heads simply interferes with letting ourselves be the brave beings we actually are. Such hyper-vigilance stems from fear, of course: “If I don’t check myself constantly, won’t I make a mistake?”

Letting go of incessantly measuring and comparing ourselves to others leads to spontaneous acts of courage and compassion. It’s like learning a dance step well enough that we no longer need to keep looking down at our feet.

Gaylon Ferguson, Natural Bravery

Cease resisting

As soon as it becomes clear that “I” cannot possibly escape from the reality of the present, since “I” is nothing other than what I know now, this inner turmoil must stop. No possibility remains but to be aware of pain, fear, boredom, or grief in the same complete way that one is aware of pleasure. The human organism has the most wonderful powers of adaptation to both physical and psychological pain. But these can only come into full play when the pain is not being constantly restimulated by this inner effort to get away from it, to separate the “I” from the feeling. The effort creates a state of tension in which the pain thrives.

But when the tension ceases, mind and body begin to absorb the pain – as water reacts to a blow or cut.

Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

Finding your own way

We tend to focus on, and speak about the soul life of an individual in terms of spiritual comfort and deep nourishment…. but the equally unsettling and disturbing quality about this strange, often wild and courageous faculty of belonging inside us we have come to name ‘the soul’, is its ruthless, and almost tidal wish to find its own way to a full union with the world.

The soul is a planner’s nightmare, the biographer’s conundrum, an internal abiding spring that is both a source and a continual unstoppable flow, an internal stranger at the door of our outer life about to break everything apart and leave; a pilgrim suddenly more in love with the horizon than its home; and most disturbingly, someone who is willing to fail, often spectacularly, at their own life rather than succeed drably at someone else’s.

David Whyte