Breathing in Advent

Confession:  Even though I wrote about it recently, I skipped church yesterday.  I didn’t skip because I wanted to have brunch with friends, or catch an early football game.  It’s just that I had been with people constantly last week over Thanksgiving and I knew I needed some true silence and solitude.

I wrote in my journal, “I need to breathe…have a Sabbath removed from frenzy. I need to listen for Your still small voice.  I need to fill up with You.  Speak into the silence, Lord. Come Holy Spirit.”

I’ve started to copy an acquaintance of mine who signs her emails: “Breathe deep. Lean hard. God’s love holds.”  I need that reminder

It made me think of this post originally from 2 years ago…

really wish I liked Yoga more.   It’s healthy.  And it’s so in.  But I’m not crazy about it.

Here are the only things I like about Yoga:

  • the comfy pants that are like legal pajamas,
  • the fact that you do it in a group with great people, and not, for example on a stationary bike in your basement (like a crazy introvert),
  • the corpse pose (where you lay still with soft music playing)…

And one more thing…                                                                                                                  They remind you to breathe.  In fact, I think that’s the only part I consistently get right when I go.  I mess up all the poses.  And I can’t make myself pretzelize (is that a word?) like my friend Brooke.

But then they say, “Don’t forget to breathe.” and I think “Yes!  I’ve got that down!  Score!” (Can you tell I’m better at competitive sports than contemplative ones?)

Sometimes the best I can do at Yoga is to just keep breathing.  Sometimes in the Christmas season it seems that way also.  You too?

Our to-to lists are too long.  We drop balls and forget to follow through with details.  And our regular spiritual practices and rhythm of time with Jesus may suffer.  But no matter what happens in the next few weeks, most (hopefully all) of us will still be breathing when we get to the New Year.  So what if breathing became a spiritual practice?  It’s one many of you are probably familiar with.  Breath prayer.

Think for a minute…What is a name for God that is especially meaningful to you this season?  Abba Father, Gentle Shepherd, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, Light of the World, King of Kings…

As you breathe in, silently say this name.

Then… What sums up your need or desire of your heart this season?

Peace?  Healing? Guidance?

Construct a short phrase that expresses this.  As you breathe out, pray this phrase.

For a long time, I’ve felt out of control in many areas of my life, so my breath prayer has been, “Abba Father” (as I breathe in).  “Do what only You can do.” (as I breathe out).

Or maybe you might pray something like Mary did “Holy One, be magnified in my life.”  (Luke 2:46-55).

Or, “Prince of Peace, calm my anxious heart.”

In heavy traffic.  Breathe.

In crowded stores.  Breathe.

In tense family situations.  Breathe.

Sitting in front of your Christmas tree. Breathe.

On a walk alone.  Breathe.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.                                                                                                                Just.  Keep.  Breathing.

2 thoughts on “Breathing in Advent

  1. Winter is a time of drawing in, yet of refreshing the spirit by breathing the fresh and renewing pine and woods-scented air. The sunlight is brilliant and diamantine on snow at mid-day; then dropping quickly out of sight, it leaves a rapidly chilling effect on the faded day. As the days shorten, the tendency is to pause and intentionally find more time. The quick day’s call to Advent preparation then encounters the hushed stillness of gathering darkness. It is a short day’s journey (instead of Eugene O’Neill’s play named “a long day’s journey ,,,”) into night.

    But, Laura, you’re so right — the focused prayer formulas, mat postures, and beads may overcomplicate the simple act of just breathing rhythmically while taking one’s thoughts and concerns to God in prayer. Thank you for sharing you like Yoga. Like you, I am drawn to it, but have reservations. Perhaps (though exercise is vital) Yoga may be in some ways an overly elaborate embellishment of the simple act of encountering the assurance of God’s presence. My favorite ways of seeking to open channels to him through nature and prayer usually prevail in the end. Wouldn’t a deep-breathing walk through winter’s landscape awaken the vital response to God’s natural created universe equally well?

    I will think “Just.Keep.Breathing.”

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    • Thank you, Anne! And, yes simplicity – the simple act of responding to God’s invitation to be still and know that He is God is more than enough :). I have only been to Holy Yoga at church, and that only a handful of times, but it was quietly focused only on scripture which I liked. Praying you will sense the presence of Jesus today!

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