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A presbytery moderator’s advice: This Advent, take time to breathe

A simple spiritual practice can connect us to the sacredness of the season

by Wanda M. Lundy | Presbyterians Today

iStock photo

Breathing is something so taken for granted that we rarely see it full of sacrality. It is breath that allows us to speak, sing, cry and laugh. It is breath that connects us to all of Creation.

The sacredness of breath is throughout the Bible. In the beginning, the Spirit of God breathes Creation into being. Later, the Spirit breathes life into Jesus’ followers, giving them a Pentecost faith.

But it’s not just in Christianity where breath is seen as sacred. In Islam, there is a spiritual practice that follows breathing rhythms. Buddhist tradition also teaches “the mindfulness of breathing.”

Among Native Americans, the Apache, a nation of six Southern Plains tribes, believe that when people tell the stories of their ancestors, they must choose their words carefully. Rosalyn LaPier, a professor of history at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana and Métis, explains that is because “when you’re saying those words, you are actually breathing the breath of the ancestors.”

Wanda M. Lundy

Since I was 2, I’ve experienced near-death asthmatic events that required intubation. It is with these life and death experiences that I identify breathing as the most important of the spiritual disciplines — especially in the season of Advent.

Breathing as a spiritual discipline can help us through Advent. Just as breathing brings oxygen to every cell of the body to get rid of carbon dioxide, Advent breathes in the hope, peace, joy and love of Christ to rid the negativity and despair of this world.

The beauty of breathing as a spiritual practice is that it does not require anything except the consciousness of breath. The very acknowledgement of breathing in and out deeply is simply the practice. Try it now. Breathe in and out slowly. Repeat. What do you feel? Peace? Recentering? A sense of the Divine?

In this season of Advent, where we are often rushing around and out of breath, I invite you to breathe. And as you do, ponder the first breath the Christ child took in the world. Ponder the life that breath gave us. It is in the practice of breathing that we can see more clearly the purpose of Advent and our need to breathe in deeply God’s goodness and grace.

Wanda M. Lundy is the moderator of the Presbytery of Northeast New Jersey. She is currently working on a book titled “Creating ACTS Communities – A Way to Congregational Transformation.”

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