Breathing life into being

Mark McDonald
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In this issue, our focus is on health and wellness, and you have probably been thinking of that topic for several months now. During the pandemic, many of us have found that we have time on our hands. Our options for entertainment, dining out and travel are greatly restricted, so many of us have spent time streaming shows. Even that has its limits and we look for ways to exercise, eat healthier and a host of other activities to become healthier.

One of my experiments was to try some breathing techniques for relaxation. In James Neston’s recent book “Breath” he points out the ancient challenge to breathe more slowly and intentionally through our nose. He mentions several practices — through prayers, sayings and mantras — that share a common rhythm and pattern of about 5 1/2 breaths per minute. Breathing at that rate brings people to a deeper sense of health and wellness. It has been found in many different traditions throughout hundreds of years of practice. More research led me to learn that it was common to Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Taoism, Native American spirituality and even yoga!  

Being an NCIS fan and believing in Gibb’s rule number 39 (“There’s no such thing as a coincidence.”), I must point out that the truly amazing part is not that all these cultures found the perfect rhythm to bring peace and relaxation. While that is notable, the most amazing part is that we have all been knit together in a way that allows us to do something as simple as breathe to return us to health and wholeness. 

Sometimes, we work hard to find health and wellness — through diets, exercise, meditation, spiritual practices and more.  While that can be helpful, I believe there is a deeper truth hidden within the simple practice of breathing in this tried and true rhythm. An ancient text comes to mind:

“I give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

What if health and wellness is not simply a challenge to make ourselves into a more healthy person?  What if it was more about finding out how we were created — fearfully and wonderfully — and returning to the person we were born to be? Finding our rhythm, finding a holistic approach to living — and breathing into the rhythm of life. Not creating health and wellness, but returning to it.  

Over thousands of years, humanity has found a way of returning to health and wellness through a simple pattern of slow, steady breathing. Whether people recite an ancient mantra, repeat a yoga phrase, or pray the Ava Maria, we have found unity of purpose by breathing into the rhythm of life as it is intended to be.