Prayers for Living: A Prayer for...

- Awareness of My Breath

Taking a Spiritual Breather

A Breath Meditation

Written By Renée Miller

There are many important things in life, but none so important as the breath. At the moment of our beginning, God breathed the breath of life into us, and we became a living soul.  Day by day the Holy One sustains our breath, and without that breath, none of the important things that we hold dear in our life would have any reality. It is the breath within us that animates us, and when the breath no longer fills our lungs, human existence as we know it, is ended.

While the breath is the most important thing in our lives, we rarely give it much attention.  We're mostly aware of our breath when we are breathing hard, or when we are hardly breathing.  In those instances, we become acutely attuned to the strength and power of our breath.  But, mostly the breath goes completely unnoticed. 

The process for meditation in many religions includes counting the breaths we inhale and exhale.  Yoga, as a spiritual and physical practice, requires awareness and control of the breath as one breathes into the various poses or meditates while in poses.  Vietnamese Buddhist priest Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to enjoy our breath. He teaches that conscious breathing is different from unconscious breathing.  When we are mindful of our breath, we know that we are breathing.  When we take a long breath, we know we are taking a long breath.  When we take a short breath, we know we are taking a short breath.  Though it may seem insignificant, paying attention to the breath in our prayer and meditation is a spiritual practice of great magnitude.  The breath is simply too important to go unnoticed.  It is our gift from the Creator and our connection with the Creator.

Tip to try:  
Sit in a natural position and begin to notice your breath.  Feel it as it moves through your lungs and out through your nostrils.  Feel the fall and rise of your chest and diaphragm as the breath makes its journey through your body.  Don't try to alter the breath.  Just notice it. 

After three or four minutes, sit on the edge of your chair.  Straighten up and lengthen your spine, as if someone were pulling your head upward with a strong thread.  Take a long and deep inhalation, counting slowly to five.  Exhale that same breath to a slow count of five.  Notice how much freer the breath moves when you lengthen your spine.  Breathe in this manner for three or four minutes.  Finally, take three or four minutes to express your gratitude to heaven for the miracle of your breath.  Take time to breathe and know that you are breathing!

Open my body and heart, O God, so the breath that you poured into me can become the divine fire that keeps me awake to my own human life.

Copyright ©2008 Renée Miller