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There are many emergency situations that cause a person to lose or diminish their capacity for breath. As you know, this quickly becomes a life or death situation. For some of these situations, a first responder can take their own breath and blow it into the mouth and lungs of the suffering person and this practice will sustain and recover the life of that person.
We take our breathing for granted. It is so automatic that we lose consciousness of it. We usually have no awareness of our airflow until the moment when we can’t get enough of it. Breathing is the process of inspiration (breathing in) and expiration (breathing out). There is much scientific information about our parasympathetic nervous system, brain stem, or other biological realities that could be added, but even so, the corpus of what can be learned about breathing cannot be found in the empirical space.
You see, science doesn’t usually view expiration or inspiration as dying. It will not deny that if these two opposite exchanges ever stop, then death will occur, but it doesn’t see breathing out as dying because they assume or presuppose the breathing response function. This post will show you how to gain awareness that life is not automatic.
Nearly all spiritual practices ask a person to sit quietly, to be still, and to focus on one’s breathing. Meditation, centering prayer and even relaxation techniques all use breathing to anchor oneself into a particular place of awareness. Breathing is like the X and Y coordinates on a graph, there is the horizontal (biology) and the vertical (spiritual) aspects.
Breathing is spiritual because we know that the Greek word for breath or wind and the word for Spirit are the same thing (John 3:6-8). Breath comes and ushers in a new and restorative life and a sense of well-being. Breath becomes toxic if it is held. Breath is intended to go out to infill another. The same Argon gas that is in our oxygen has been in circulation for thousands of years. The same spirit/breath that brought life to the ancients is breathing life to us. As Rob Bell would say, “You don’t have a spiritual life, you ARE a spiritual life.”
Since the day we were born until the day our bodies die, we are not just breathing. We are being breathed. We experience a spiritual mouth to mouth resuscitation though we are often oblivious to the Source. Ever wonder from where does our breath come? Spirit or breath is our Source of life. Breathing or Spirit IS life. (It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is of no help at all.” John 6:6) We don’t posses it, it is given to us each moment. It is a constant outpouring to us. We can’t keep it, it must be given back.
Life is borrowed.
Think about the implications of this. If what I’m saying is true, then the Maker of life has been coming to us, sustaining us, holding us, keeping us (Psalm 121:1-8). If this is true, then the source of all of life is profoundly benevolent. It didn’t pull back from us when we were in our darkest day. (If anything we may look at our darkest day as the one when this process of Spirit giving life to flesh was interrupted.) It didn’t judge us despite our stubbornness or rebellion. When we went of the deep end, life didn’t. In our biggest sins or failures, Life was there breathing into us. It sustains us even when we do the most horrible things. If we want to know what God is like, look over the track record of our breathing, He/She has been in our face every moment, whether we are conscious of it or not.
For some of us, this thought may not sit very well. Some of us don’t like the notion of God staring us in the face and breathing into us. This insults our sense of perception of autonomy and we prefer to jettison this idea as untrue or unscientific.
If that is you, can I ask you to try and sit with this idea rather than toss it out? Really take in this idea. If you want to see just how much control you really have, then hold your breath or refuse to take in air (just for a moment), do you want to be the kind of person who takes the air and rejects or ignores the source? In a moment when you draw that breath from the benevolent, generous, Source, sit with it. Sit long enough to gain awareness that you want to leave (we all do at first). Sit long enough to ask yourself why this idea makes you feel so uncomfortable. Sit long enough to get that false inner voice to stop calling you silly, or superstitious, our unscientific. Don’t run. Don’t squirm off the bubble. Just sit. Don’t puff up with pride and certainty. Notice your defensiveness, your arguments, your calculations and distractions. See if you can experience this breath, this Spirit just a few more minutes.
If you do, you will be doing deeply spiritual work. You will learn why an early name for God’s people was Israel or “Strives with God.” (Genesis 32:28) Every ugly thing, every excuse, every lie, every bad thought, every fouled motive, every distraction, and every false pretense will start to bubble to the surface over time. Along with it will come all the great and bright moments where your true self shined through. Sit with each one. Breath them in, then let them all go as you exhale. Give it (by breathing it out) to this unending benevolence that is coming to you and then watch how love fills its place.
This practice won’t make you weird. It will make you into the most authentic YOU. It will bring about true humility.
Inspiration will now mean something. New life will mean something. You will see things in different ways. Truth will be true on an entirely other level. You will experience resuscitation. And you will love the proximity of the Source. Then open your eyes to see all the people in the world who have sat in the same place. Explore how many expressions there are of this single experience.
Then get ready for the ride of your life.
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