I've posted this method on the Contemplative Practice forum, but would like to make it available to all. Please post comments about how this works for you.
Lately I've been doing a form of meditation that's quite productive. After doing a short period of lectio and settling in, I call to mind that Christ breathed the Spirit on his disciples, and that I am a part of his Mystical Body. I affirm my need to be integrated into the Body by the life-breath of the Spirit, and I consecrate my breathing to Christ. I turn my breathing over to the care of Christ and pray that his Spirit will regulate my breathing, balance energies, and join me to his Body. I use the phrase, "Jesus, breathe me," as something of a "sacred word" when I get too distracted. Breathing is then allowed to do what it needs to do--there is no conscious attempt to breath any particular way. I just follow, surrendering breath and using the prayer phrase. After awhile, the patterns change, becoming sometime very shallow and short, or stopping altogether for long periods, and eventually resuming as a deep, smooth rhythm. The mind is cleared and the heart feels more activated. There comes a point when I pretty much know that the meditation is over, so I just stop doing it.
I've never come across any references to this form of praying, but it would seem to be a more thoroughly Christian approach to meditating with the breath than Zazen or vipassana. It preserves a receptive attitude and is grounded in a very orthodox theology. I would have to say that it a form of prayer pleasing to Christ and very much about what the Spirit wants to do in us--integrate us into His Mystical Body.
So far, the consequences to me have been a deepened sense of peace and joy with more balance to that kundalini energy process I've had going on for years. A few tight spots in my ribs have let go of stresses and I'm able to work without headaches. I've only been doing this for about a week, however, so we'll see how it goes.
Phil--I have added the words "grace in-grace out" to my breathing practices during meditation and yoga. By "grace in" I mean opening myself up to grace. By "grace out" I mean allowing the grace to flow through me to the world.
Obviously, "grace in" comes with an inhalation, while grace out" comes with an exhalation.
Not quite as Christian as your practice, but it has enhanced my sense of connectedness to the world.
Guys, I like this, gonna try it tonight!
Good adaptation, shanti.
Here's another: get a sense of your inhalation being God's exhalation--you're inhaling God's exhaled breath of life. And when you exhale, God is inhaling/receiving your surrender which is offered in the exhaled breath. Use the words "Spirit" when you inhale, and "Thy will be done" with the exhale. After awhile, it becomes nonverbal and you just breathe in rhythm with these two movements, not forcing the breath, allowing it to do its mysterious work in you.
I have been using a similar kind of prayer for a number of years - usually just the name of Jesus. Recently I decided to check out Fr. John Main, a guru in mantra prayer after a Carmelite nun friend spoke highly of his method. His recommended prayer word is Maranatha which I tried for a while but it did not really resonate so, noting it consisted of four syllables, I used a translation of it, Lord Jesus Come, and found that was better for me. It also connects me to the Eucharist for as I prepare to receive my prayer is Lord Jesus Come and then after receiving - You have come Lord Jesus, I adore you. And then I spend the time I have for thanksgiving in the wake of that adoration saying as needed Lord Jesus I adore you. Since I am a Carmelite secular, I have a Marian connection in my prayer. I call upon her in beginning mental prayer to show compassion toward my inability to truly pray . This is based on an insight I received in regarding my prayer as being like a marriage feast and the role of Mary noted on that occasion (too long to get into here) but I ask her not only to direct me to Jesus in my need, my prayer deficiency, but to remain with me and sustain me in his presence. Then I focus on being there at the feet of Jesus with my prayer phrase.
I know this sounds very elaborate but it has become very simple for me and done almost instantaneous as a means of disposing me for prayer and then awaiting for Jesus to transform my prayer from water into wine.
Sorry for being so long winded. My first venture into this....
I really like this one. I've been interested in breathing as prayer/meditation for a few months now, ever since our yoga instructor brought a CD to class about breathwork. (For those interested, it's by Andrew Weil and is called something like "Breathing: The Master Key to Self-healing", and you can find/purchase it online.) Anyway, following my breath helps me remember just how close God is to me, closer than my very breath. Maybe another thing I like about breathing prayer is that, as a singer, it's another dimension of prayer I can bring to my music ministry, since breathing is such an important part of singing. And what a cool way to "pray without ceasing", as scripture tells us to do! Great topic!
Good contributions to this topic, gnicford and Peggy.
Breath is unique in that it can be both a conscious and unconscious process. Hence, attention to breath brings us to a place where the conscious and unconscious aspects of our being interface. Prayer in synchrony with breath using some of the methods described in this thread can bring a deep sense of surrender and belonging to God.
Do any of you notice your breath changing spontaneously during your prayer? What significance do you attach to this? What do you notice going on during "shallow-breath" times, for example?
gnicford, I see you're from Lafayette. Drop me a Private Message (Message button) and tell me more about yourself, if you don't mind. I went to USL in the 70s and loved that city.
Have any of you read Nancy Roth's book, The Breath of God? While not directly addressing Breathing as Prayer, it addresses very nicely the integration of the Spiritual and Physical.
"Whatever device you use, your focus on the breath is a focus not merely on the interchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, but on the rhythm of God's life moving in you and through you."
I really like this image.
One thing I've discovered about focusing on my breathing in prayer is that I am better able to relax and let go of all of the stresses. Or as you noted Phil... untangle all of the knots.. both physical and mental. (grin)
Anyhow... the book is a good read for anyone interested in the subject of prayer.
And with that I will wish everyone the most Blessed of Thanksgivings and get back to work.
Thanks, God bless you. I have been reading Pranayama in Indian Yoga as the highest form of Yoga but never getting down to doing anything from my catholic perspective.Your articles encourage me to start the breathing prayer. Though nearly 70yrs old i am a very restless character, and I hope to find stillness by this breathing prayer.Of course i shall share whatever experiences I get, in due course.God bless your work. ThankYou, O Holy Spirit, thank You, thank You....
What a wonderfully affirming post, sakthikiru! Thanks for sharing with us!
Coming back to this place, permit me to share with you the following passage from "YOGA and Christian Thought" by Fr Mascarenhas
"The mind is silent, composed and receptive to spiritual truths, when breathing is properly controlled after all worldly desires are annihilated. Just as fire blazes brightly when the ashes are blown away, the DIVINE SPARK in man shines in all its brilliance when the ashes of worldly desires are blown away by the practice of PRANAYAMA...." ...I can recall my reading of IMITATION of CHRIST at this point, about annihilation of desire, which seems to happen gently and imperceptibly when you are into Pranayama. I pray to the Holy Spirit to guide me, to guide us all... Thank you for letting me be part of this site, God bless you abundantly.
Concerning breathing and prayer:
Phil, So are you still doing that, and how is it going?
I do this breathing prayer quite often, and with the resulted you've noted. I find that surrendering my breath to the Spirit is a wonderful way to surrender my will and life to God.
The "Philokalia" offers very good breathing exercises, as do these 2 Christian mystics of the Orthodox tradition.
Some of the Hindu methods can be very useful, if not pursued with active will of achieving anything/state. Alternate nostril breathing is as follows:
1)close right nostril with thumb, breath in left nostil to a 4 count.
2)close left nostril with index finger and pinky finger, hold for 12.
3)release thumb from right nostil and exhale very very gently 8.
This exercise should be done for no more than 5 minutes and will release psychic tension and balance ida and pingla (2 nerve channels). It is advised to repeat "Christ" instead of counting. Or whatever divine name you choose.
This exercise should not be strained. If one cannot do 4,12, 8 count, try 1,3, 2 count and slowly increase. Never cause strain in this exercise to you lungs. If you can increase the count without causeing strain to 8, 24, 16, this will prove benificial. If you strain it will not.
This exercise is very effective at balancing right and left hemispheres of the brain and providing a harmonious state of being that can be carried on in silent prayer after 5 minutes.
many variations of this, as well.
After doing this with right nostil closed for 5 minutes, alternate to left nostil. and repeat using other hand.
I have recently started using the breath for the prayer of the heart.
On the inbreath, say: Lord Jesus Christ
On the outbreath: have mercy on me
A variation is:
On the outbreath, when in a group situation or thinking of a group of people, say: have mercy on US.
This I tend to do when the sense of surrendering to God seems remote and I need to completely refocus. I have found it profoundly uplifting and helpful in lightening me up
Has anyone every just listened to their own breathing? No attempt to alter it or add any meaning.
The sound of our own breath seems to carry a certain intimacy. Those of you with children must notice this as you listen to them sleep, so deeply with trust.
Usually we're doing something to our breathing, or adding something to it, rather than relating to it simply. Just listening to it.
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