It was an early morning in February at our home in Central Florida. The house was still wrapped in darkness but when I looked out the window, everything was blushing pink. It was like seeing the world through rose colored glasses. Looking forward to a walk in this tinted haze, I promptly laced up my walking shoes and hurried out the door. Once outside, I stepped into softest, gauziest pre-dawn I have ever seen. How gentle nature’s hues can be, how sweet and lacy and yet how fleeting. It did not last. Aggressive blue-gray clouds were closing in, swallowing up the pink.
I thought of the rhyme: red sky at morning, sailors take warning. A storm was on the move and I instantly went from the ethereal to the mundane.
Better hurry my walk before the rain hits. I noticed how my breathing and pace quickened almost as fast as the threatening clouds and it was then that I began to consider breath itself.
Change Breath, Change Everything
Rapid, short breathing changes everything. We breathe differently when we are angry, worried, excited, hurried or tense. Athletes know that proper breathing has a lot to do with performance as well. Breathing powerfully affects every system in the body: cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine, lymph, immune, digestive, and respiratory. Thankfully, in stressful situations our bodies know instinctively to draw in a deep long breath. It is our cue for balance. . . and so much more.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for breath is nefeš, which also translates as soul. It is in this realm of understandings where my thoughts began to linger: the breath-soul connection. Thomas Merton said that God exhaled and breathed out creation for us to inhale, each time filling us with life.
Lingering in the Breath
But breath is life in more than the mere physical sense. Slow, deep inhalations reunite body-mind-soul balance. It is why I walk in the pre-dawn mornings, pink sky or not. Yet balance can be as fleeting as a swallowed up pink dawn. The yogis consider pranayama, a discipline of breathing, to be a daily practice. I understand why. When weariness sets in, and it does, I question my beliefs. Do I really believe in this connection, in what I say and write? I can feel like an imposter. My mind can sink into negativity. My aging body can tire and ache. I can be pulled down . . . but this I know . . .
. . . I Know My Way Back .
My love for nature is more than the beauty of woods, trees, farms, green pastures, mountains and gardening. It is less about what I see and more about what I breathe. It is my connection to that breath that I seek and to linger in that breath. It takes me to a place where all things make sense. It is where “thy holy will” exists not just as a verdict, but with my full participation in this grand design. It is my full restoration.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul.Psalm 23
Words to inhale . . . .