In his new book, Postures, Prayers, and Poems: A Yoga Journey through Earth, Body, and Soul, author Joseph Lauricella begins by discussing the profound power of our breath. Here is a beautiful mantra taught by a life-long yogi, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, and it is the opening to the book’s introduction:
Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation and surrender to God.
We do not need to do yoga to benefit from the magnitude of these words, nor do we need to be expert meditators to connect to an awareness of our own breathing. Further, we do well to remember that the Hebrew word for “spirit,” ruach, can also be translated as “breath.” In other words, God is as close as our breath. And through our breath, we can draw near to God with longing and surrender.
So, as you read this, I invite you to take a breath. Hold it for a few counts and sense the Divine drawing near to you. Then release your breath slowly, giving to God all that needs gifting. Do you sense it? The breathing? The mystery and power that is as simple as something we do without notice everyday all day long?
I invite you to wonder with me, as we inhale and trust the promise that God remains with us, how does this provide comfort in these weary days? The Gospel of John says in the famous passage about vines and branches, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” (John 15:4). Again, God is as close as our breath. Take heart.
Then, as we exhale, and surrender ourselves to God, what meaning does this hold for you? Most of us know the beloved hymn, “I Surrender All,” and we can sing with gusto. What do you need to surrender so that the light of God’s love might shine more freely? May we practice letting go together.
Practice it a few more times, paying deep attention to your next few breaths; recite the mantra quietly to yourself and see if there is a spark in your being—that’s the Divine. May it guide all of us “for the living of these days.”