The Power of Breathing as Prayer:
for Peace, for Re-Directing our Thoughts and Feelings, and for Social Action
Inhale to the count of three through your nose – allowing your abdomen to expand.
Exhale to the count of six through your mouth – allowing your abdomen to contract.
Inhale. . . Exhale
Inhale. . . Exhale
Be Here Now
In the midst of chaos, tension, stress, and other challenging times, many of us have experienced the peace and calm that such breathing can bring to us – to settle us down, and allow us to re-focus.
Many of us have benefited also from prayer where we “breathe out” all negative thoughts, suffering, pain, etc… as we exhale, and then "breathe in” positivity, love, and peace.
One practice which is very intriguing and has been helpful for me in calmly, prayerfully doing something to help others, is an ancient, spiritual and meditative practice called Tonglen. It involves using our breath in a rather counter-intuitive way. Instead of being focused on the benefit to me, this breathing goes out from ourselves to help others. In this prayer we “breathe in” other peoples’ suffering and pain, naming these, and holding them in a sacred space within ourselves, without necessarily letting them become our own suffering or pain. Then we “breathe out” positive thoughts, things that we wish for those others, all good things. This can be useful for anyone suffering during this time of uncertainty within the COVID pandemic, those who are ill, who have loved ones who are ill, or whose lives have been turned upside down through job loss, loss of dreams, through fear in working on the front lines in essential jobs. It can be useful for those most vulnerable, those of color, those in senior facilities, or the poor. Tonglen Breathing can also be used as prayer for Black people and people of color who are tired of fighting the discrimination that those of us who are non-Black cannot begin to fathom, those angry that this type of discrimination continues after centuries – in jobs, from police, in the healthcare system, and in people’s attitudes, anyone who has suffered racial violence.
This Tonglen practice is applicable to so many kinds of suffering – any we can imagine. It is an active prayer that can make a difference, with God’s power and love. I found this Tonglen below on the Spirituality and Practice website, where you can find many fascinating ideas, and I choose to use it as a prayer. I share it now with you. . .