As the world becomes louder, more complex, and more confusing, many people look for ways to quiet outer noise, calm nerves, and reconnect with their inner selves.
There’s a smorgasbord of practices we can use to recenter us in the present moment and reclaim the inner peace we desire.
(I’ve outlined some with this free download on my website.)
The Breath—A Pathway to Inner Peace
One of the simplest ways to quiet ourselves and restore balance is through our breath. Focused breathing quiets the mind and allows us to more deeply enter our heart-space.
Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh offered the world his version of breath meditation to calm ourselves and seek inner peace.
His meditation on the practice of mindfulness suggests these simple words to draw us inward:
Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.
The Breath Is God’s Spirit Breathing in Us
Before birth, the umbilical cord provides the oxygen and nutrients we need to sustain life. When we leave our mother’s womb, the doctor cuts the cord. At that moment, our lungs gasp for air, and God breathes the Creator’s Spirit into us. Every breath we take after the first one is the Spirit of God breathing in us. It’s what sustains our lives.
Rabbi Shlomo Schachter, in his article “The Breath of Life,” writes,
“It is not accidental that breath is associated both with human respiration and the Divine presence. Looking back at the creation of Adam, we find (Genesis 2:7) ‘The LORD God formed Adam of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living creature’…. [Thus] the very act of breathing inherently connects us to God. The mystical tradition takes this verse a step further, such as when the Ramban wrote, ‘The One who blew, blew some of his own essence’. Meaning, the spirit which was blown into Adam was not only the breath of life, it was also God’s Divine Spirit which is now permanently invested into each person. Our neshama—the part of us which breathes—is a spark of Godliness.”
Calming the Brain
Science confirms that when we slow our breathing and focus on each wisp of air flowing in and out of our lungs, we deactivate our sympathetic nervous system—the fight or flight response. Deep breathing triggers our parasympathetic nervous system, a network of nerves that relaxes our body. Focusing on our breath calms our brain and decreases stress.
According to Emily Boynton in her article “How Meditation Affects Your Brain and Boosts Well-Being”:
“Through meditation, you are essentially deactivating your sympathetic nervous system and turning on the parasympathetic branch….Initial studies have found that over time this practice can help reduce pain, depression, stress and anxiety….Calming down your sympathetic nervous system through meditation can [also] decrease emotional reactivity.”
Practicing Heart Focused Breathing
There’s no right or wrong way to practice breath meditation. It’s simply becoming aware of the life-giving air flowing in and through your body, especially the flow in and out of your lungs and heart.
To start your breath meditation practice, you can use Thich Nhat Hanh’s words, the words of scripture such as “Be Still,” or listen to a guided meditation.
Here’s a link to a guided meditation I’ve created on my YouTube page: Circle of Breath Meditation.
The Harvard Medical School recommends these steps when practicing breath awareness meditation:
- Find an alert, comfortable position on a chair, floor cushion, or bench.
- Sit with your spine erect.
- Bring your attention to the natural sensations of the breath in the body.
- Don’t try to control the breath. It doesn’t matter if it is short and shallow or long and deep.
- Try to follow the breath through full cycles, from the beginning of an inhalation to the end of an exhalation, and then on to the next cycle.
- Thoughts may enter the mind. This is natural. Simply allow them to arise and pass.
- If a chain of thought hijacks your attention and you lose awareness of your breath, gently return your attention to the sensations of breathing.
Wouldn’t It Be Like God?
In this fast-paced, often overwhelming world, it’s important to develop life-giving practices that teach us how to slow down and care for ourselves. Taking time to focus on our breath—both during quiet times of meditation and throughout the day—restores our balance and inner peace.
Experts estimate we breathe in and out 22,000 times a day.
Wouldn’t it be like the God-of-love to sustain us with Divine Breath at the moment of our births and then give us 22,000 opportunities each day to become aware of the Creator’s Presence?
By focusing on our breath, we can remember God dwells within us as us.
Our first breath, our last breath, and every breath between sustains us with God’s Spirit.
We are filled with the Breath of God.
—brian j plachta
More Resources for You to Find Inner Peace, Balance, and Wholeness
Are you looking for more ways to get into the Divine Flow and restore your inner peace? Check out these resources:
Guided Meditation: The Circle of Breath Meditation invites you to experience a circle of breath—God’s breath—flowing in and through you.
Click here to listen to the Circle of Breath Guided Meditation.
Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts in the Second Half of Life
How can you discern what you are invited to do with your life after your 9-5 job ends, the kids are raised, or you retire or want to retire?
How does discovering your spiritual gifts provide a roadmap to living the second half of life with joy, purpose, and fulfillment?
Join us via Zoom or in-person for this interactive workshop where you’ll have an opportunity to take a Spiritual Gifts Inventory and discover how you can use your gifts in life-giving ways. Download the free Spiritual Gifts Inventory with this link: Spiritual Gifts Inventory.
Click the link to learn more and register: October Workshop/Webinar
Spiritual Reading: Are You Ready to Get Into the Flow?
Finding Flow–Spiritual Practices to Reclaim Inner Peace, Balance, and Wholeness provides you with the tools you need for your spiritual toolbox. Here’s what people are saying about the book:
“Finding Flow shares the simplicity of spiritual practice in so many varied, longstanding, and proven ways that you will find yourself asking the question: Why haven’t I included such approaches to God in my life before? Then, as you move further along through the chapters you will find yourself building your own tailored “rule of prayer”. As in the case of the fourth century Abbas and Ammas of the desert did, you will slowly move to develop a center of prayer within. This will set your spiritual life in motion so daily life turn can into a true pilgrimage marked by the resilience, inner peace, and compassion that only can come from a real relationship with God.”