Every living being breathes. From our first breath to our last, we are given this unasked-for gift. Our breath arrives for us each moment like a miracle. And then our bodies answer, with our exhale out into the universe – letting go, releasing a bit of who we are to the All. It is the single biggest bestowal of our lives and one that we most often take for granted. Becoming conscious of our breath is a “simple but not easy” way of beginning to practice mindfulness. It’s profound and amazing that by simply following our own breath, it is possible to imitate the very beginning of time. In Genesis, chapter 1 and 2, we read that the “breath of God” (ruach Elohim) existed…and then that Mysterious Force in the Universe took that same breath and breathed into the nostrils of the human being to create human life and spirit:
Genesis 1:2 And the breath of God (Ruach Elohim) hovered over the face of the depths.
Genesis 2:7 Then Adonai formed the human of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (nishmat chayim); and man became a living soul (nefesh chayah)
In these two verses, the Hebrew words (neshamah, ruach, nishmat chayim, nefesh) meaning breath, spirit, life, soul, wind are used as poetry to express the strength of this idea that we are connected to the Divine and the Divine to us through breath.
Here are just a few resources on breath mindfulness:
Jewish Meditation Practices for Everyday Life by Rabbi Jeff Roth. Chapter 2 “Beginning a Practice” focuses particularly on the breath. And guess what? Rabbi Roth is giving his book away for free (cost of shipping) at his website: http://www.awakenedheartproject.org
Mindfulness: An Eight-week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman is a cogent explanation of mindfulness and a program to follow, with online meditation scripts! It is filled with the latest research. The whole first week focuses on the breath. Here is their website: http://franticworld.com
Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism by Rabbi Rachel Timoner. Rabbi Timoner’s book beautifully explores breath, soul, God and spirit. Rabbi Timoner is a rabbi at Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, an activist and a friend: http://racheltimoner.net/?page_id=10
May every living being praise God – may every breath praise God.
Kol Haneshama Tehallel Yah Hallelu-yah (Psalm 150:6)