Sculpting Project Six: The Gift of Breath Week 2
Sneeze, sniff. I sit down to do my Centering Prayer Project. I can’t seem to settle into the quiet of this prayer method. Sniff. Sure, I have a cold but I don’t feel that badly. “Why is Centering Prayer so hard today?” That was the day I realized how central the simple inhale through my nose was to my ability to do Centering Prayer.
Our style of breath is a powerful tool for shaping mind, body and soul.
There are many ways of altering your breath to promote health for your body, improve mental functioning, and control emotions. There are breathing methods for assistance with panic attacks, blood pressure, heartburn, asthma, stress, pain, energy, sleep and more. Athletics and CEO’s use methods to improve performance.
Here are some examples:
To increase oxygen intake and enjoy the many benefits of more oxygen in your brain and blood:
1. Inhale deeply taking in as much air as you can. (Then inhale even more.)
2. Hold the breath briefly (until it becomes uncomfortable).
3. Exhale through pursed lips as much as you can blow out. (Then blow out more.)
Managing Depression (The Mindful Way through Depression, Mark Williams and others):
Method 1: Pay attention to Breath. This is the first project choice from last week.
Method 2: Breath Into. (also useful for pain management)
Locate a part of your body where you are experiencing a sensation and focus on’ breathing into’ that place.
Method 3: Breathing With. Whatever we are doing we are breathing. It is the background to all our thoughts and activities. ‘Breathing With’ is bringing this background of breath to our awareness. Continually become aware of your breath.
Breath is also a tool to assist us in Christian prayer practices.
A couple of examples from history:
Ignatius of Loyola suggested we use a rhythm of breathing while saying the Lord ’s Prayer.
Eastern Orthodox teachers tell us to use breath to focus on our heart and soul and then God.
Ideas to expand our use of breath and prayer:
Spiritual breathing: as soon as we become aware of a sin we exhale our confession of sin and inhale God’s cleansing forgiveness.
As you inhale think of breathing in God’s gift, the breath of life, as you exhale think of giving yourself to God.
Inhaling, ask for the filling with the Holy Spirit and as you exhale ask to be living out the fruits of the Spirit.
Silently say a prayer phrase with each inhale and exhale. Such as inhale, ‘Thank-you Lord’, exhale, ‘have mercy on me.’
Recite a portion of Scripture with each breath. Such as inhale, ‘let every thing that has breath’ exhale ‘praise the Lord’ Ps. 150:6. Or inhale, ‘don’t worry about anything’, exhale, ‘pray about everything’ Phil 4:6.
Communicate. Tell fellow sculptors how your projects are going. We need each other.
A Little Bible Study
Breath has two main Hebrew words nesh-aw-maw’ (puff) roo’-akh (wind) and two main N.T. Greek words e-mi-phu-saw and ph-ne-o.
These are usually translated “spirit’ in N.T.
In the very beginning (Gen 1:2) the roo’akh (spirit/ breath/wind) is moving over the surface of the waters.
In Gen 2:7 God formed Adam from “the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”
It is God who continues gives life and breath to all living things (Acts 17:25).
The breath of God is powerful; creative power and destructive power. The host of heaven was created by the breath of God’s mouth (Ps. 33:6) and the enemy was destroyed by the breath of God’s mouth (2 Sam. 22:16).
It was breath that brought the Holy Spirit to the disciples in a whole new way. In John 20:22 when Jesus came to visit his disciples after his resurrection he gave them his peace and then breathing on the disciples he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
In both Hebrew and Greek the words we use to translate breath and Spirit are often the same words.