Breathing For Life

Intentional Breathing Helps One Discover Spiritual Awareness

by Eric Elkin


With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments
— Psalm 119:10

Breathing is a process we rarely consider until we cannot do it, or at least, do it freely. As a child, I loved diving down into the water to see how long I could hold my breath. One time a friend decided to play a joke on me. As I came up out of the pool, he held my head down in the water. He probably held me for 5 seconds, but it felt like 5 minutes. The fear of not being able to breathe caused me to panic. 

How many times during the workday do you consider your breathing? I would tend to think it is not very often. Most adults do not work a job where they need to be conscious of their air intake. The moment we move from being sedentary to an activity requiring constant movement, though, our ability to breath freely becomes a primary concern.

This past year I started to sing in the church choir. I’ve noticed after a  stressful day, my ability to hold on to notes is limited. The breath needed to sing is directly influenced by my environment. When I was younger, I would have thought the only thing required for breathing well was being in shape. 

Few people realize how much stress influences our ability to breath freely. Not just when we need extra air to sing, but even when we are resting. The awareness of my own stress caused me to explore different ways to manage it. 

Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

I remembered how much the routine of daily Taize prayers, a meditative prayer service, helped me when I was younger. So, I started simulating the experience every morning.  I wake up really early and sit in silence in my living room. Thanks to Spotify, the music from the Taize community drifts through my headphones and calms my spirit. I read scripture, pray and remain silent. It is from this routine that I write these morning reflections. 

Lately, I have discovered silence can only bring so much calm.  My new routine involves 10 minutes of conscious breathing. Each breath begins with a long, slow inhale through my nostrils. Exhaling is equally slow and deliberate but through my mouth.  After 10 minutes of this kind of activity, I am unbelievably calm. Literally, it is the kind of peaceful spiritual awareness which comes from deep within the heart.

I’m not sure this is what the psalmist intended when he wrote Psalm 119. However, it is the experience I think of when I am invited to seek God with my whole heart. The benefits of involving your whole heart are not some mystery locked away in an ancient song. There is researched evidence to suggest it is healthy and necessary for life. I invite you to try it, you may just find something you need.


Click to read Psalm 119: 9-16

Reflection Questions:

  • When have you struggled to breathe?

  • What was the source of your struggle?

  • What are prevents you from practicing conscious breathing?

  • What was your most spiritual experience? What role did breathing play in the experience?

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