Stop! Take a Deep Breath!
“Stop! Take a Deep Breath!” How often do we say this to someone who is feeling overwhelmed? How often do we say this to ourselves when we have something difficult or challenging to say, to do?
How amazing that the word for “breath” in so many of the languages I know, especially the languages of sacred texts, is the same exact word as “wind” and (drum roll) as “Spirit!”
In just a few hours I will teach a yoga class. Every yoga class begins with “pranayama,” or “breath work.” In fact, I am certified in a branch of yoga called Prana Flow, founded by yogi Shiva Rea.
The premise behind breath work is simple. The Sanskrit word “yoga” means “yoke.” Yoga is about yoking the different parts of ourselves into a balanced wholeness. In pranayama we seek to balance our feminine and masculine sides, as well as our inhale and exhale. Here in the United States masculine rules. A simple test is to place your finger above your upper lip, and to see which nostril has a greater flow of air. It is probably your right nostril. If so, then you need to focus on strengthening your feminine side (left nostril, left side of the body), to bring yourself into balance. Another way to think about it is inhale versus exhale. If you are really sucking in deep inhales, it probably means that your life is out of balance and that you are expending too much energy (exhaling more than inhaling). You need to breathe in the Spirit, the source of life and energy. In a women’s group I belong to, we frequently remind each other to “Stop, and take a deep breath.” In other words, breathe in the life-giving Spirit of Life.
This coming weekend in Christian churches around the world we celebrate the Festival of Pentecost, my second favorite day in the Christian calendar, after Easter. Actually, Pentecost began as a Jewish festival. Fifty days after passover Jews gathered for a spring barley harvest festival. This came to be when Jews also celebrated Moses’ receiving the ten commandments on top of Mount Sinai. Approximately twelve hundred years later, Jesus ascends (rises) back to heaven to his Father, but promises his disciples, “Wait here, until you receive power from on high when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) They gather in the upper room in Jerusalem, during the Jewish Pentecost Festival, and the Holy Spirit comes in a mighty wind, and breathes on them this “power from on high.” It is only after the Pentecost event that Jesus’ disciples have the courage and the energy to venture forth from the upper room where they had gathered for their last supper with Jesus, then after the crucifixion had hidden, crippled with fear, behind locked doors, afraid that what had happened to Jesus would happen to them.
Once the Spirit had breathed her new empowering life into them, however, they ventured forth, and changed the world.
Her? Yes, her. In Hebrew the word for Wind/Breath Spirit is Ruach, and it is feminine, She. In Greek the word for Wind/Breath/Spirit is Pneuma, a neuter word, but a feminine concept. The male biased bible translators, unfortunately, still usually translate Ruach and Pneuma as He. But that is gradually changing.
So, right now, Stop. Think of the day you have ahead of you. Take a deep breath. Know that the Spirit of Life is as close to you as your next breath. Know that the same power, the same life force, which hovered over the waters in Genesis 1, and brought forth all life, lives in you! This Ruach desires to empower you this very day as you live your life, and tackle all of the obstacles you must tackle today.
The next time you say to yourself, “Stop. Take a deep breath,” know that the breath of heaven, the energizing Spirit of Life, breathes in and through you. The same power which raised Christ from the dead, desires to raise you to new life.
Stop, take a deep breath! You have everything you need, right here, right now, within you.
Photos: Linda in Turkey; Ted in Denny’s garden, Alexandria. PA; Charlene at yoga class; Linda, sailing the Mediterranean Sea; Linda in cave, Capadocia, Turkey; Linda near Delphi, Greece; Linda in ancient amphitheater, Greece; Linda in NH; Linda in Nova Scotia; Linda in Turkey