Just breathe

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Today, frustration availeth much. A simple advice lingered in my head. Something my former spouse and I do when our five year old seems upset, angry, or cranky. “Just breathe and blow out some candles.” Taking in a deep breath and blowing it out is a simple act of bringing her to calm.

Closing my office door, I closed my eyes and reminded myself to “just breathe” as I brought myself back to calm. A very effective tool to utilize in those moments where one feels quite overwhelmed and frustrated. Christians today may do well to learn the benefits of simple meditative practices. In the past, this idea seemed foreign and taught as a danger and harm to engage in. However, we forget to recognize that the fundamental aspect of meditation is shifting our focus from what is happening in the present moment and coming to God with our struggles, challenges and conversing with him about those things.

Each morning, I take a moment and just breathe before praying over those clients that I will see. Pray for guidance to meet them where they are at, pray for wisdom to provide the words that need to  be spoken and heard. Despite these efforts, sometimes I even forget to breath and end up caught in a cycle of being frustrated and overwhelmed by the tasks and duties needing to be tended to.

Meditation is not some form of spiritualism that is not congruent with the Bible and the Christian lifestyle. Psalm 1 references the person who meditates on the law day and night. According to the Bible, we are becoming mindful and considering the various passage of scripture and how it applies in our lives in the present moment. Clearing our mind of “clutter” and “distractions” that otherwise will compromise our ability to grow richer in faith and deeper in our relationship with God.

In Eastern Philosophy, meditation is focusing one’s thoughts through a process of centering oneself without distraction. It is to take our focus on those things that may provide distractions and bring us into a central focus of allowing distracting thoughts to move through us and out of us without rest.

As we struggle and wrestle with our doubts, facing our individual trials, we have to remember to just breath. There is a calming affect that relaxes our bodies, loosen our irrational thought patterns, and free us from seemingly constricting feelings that are attached to irrational thought processes.

Someone who is hyperventilating is given a paper bag to breath into. It helps bring them to calm.

A marathon runner will breath with their hands stretched above their head as a way to “catch their breath” as it had become labored through their running.

An individual going through an emotional distress (parents with young kids who hold their breath as they are crying) is reminded to breath.

Breath and breathing is a means to bring us back to calm, relaxing and soothing.

In our busy and hectic lives, we ought to remember to simply “just breathe” regardless of what is going on.

Here is an NPR program on how our body has a built in stress reliever

Now, as a Christian, one is probably wondering exactly how this might be compatible with the Christian lifestyle? How this will help facilitate healing in one’s life from pain, move one away from suffering.

A good article is from the The Society for Christian Psychology where the topic is the Christian Devotional Meditation as compared to the more traditional  Buddhist form of meditation that is utilized throughout therapeutic settings (Mental Health and Addiction counseling practices)

Kabat-Zinn (2005) describes mindfulness meditation forms as involving several core principles: (a) increasing awareness of internal and external experience (feelings, thoughts, images, bodily sensations internally; sights, sounds, smells, etc. externally), (b) nonjudgmental observation and acceptance of these experiences, (c) cultivation of compassion towards self-experience, (d) developing curiosity and openness towards experience, and (e) returning to the present moment when one’s mind wanders into daydreaming or fantasies.

Christian devotional meditation, sometimes also called contemplative prayer, has 2000 years-worth of authors and definitions. For the purposes of this article, I define CDM as a variety of strategies designed to enhance focused attention on the Trinity, Scripture, or one’s self for one or more of the following purpose(s): (a) deepening one’s relationship with the Lord, (b) cultivating spiritual growth or emotional healing, and (c) growing in love towards one’s neighbor and one’s self (Garzon, In Press).

Christians are not immune to addiction or mental health disorders. However, utilizing the Christian experience and knowledge, we are able to see throughout Holy Writ, where mindfulness and meditation come in hand when dealing with the circumstances we are faced with. In fact, at the creation of Adam, God breathed into man’s nostrils and man became a living being. This idea refers to the teaching of humanity being endowed with the “breath of life”. In another setting, we read how Jesus “breathed onto the disciples” and requested that his disciples “receive the Holy Spirit.” (See John 20:22).

So, the next time one find’s themselves overwhelmed with burdens, wrestling with particular challenges, frustrated regarding particular situations they are faced with – take a moment to simply “breath” and not just a shallow form of breathing, a deep breath until you feel yourself calming and relaxed in order to get centered with God.

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