Sighing as a Spiritual Practice
“You know about your body. Well, [God] gave you that so you would have the energy and strength to be creative of the good. That’s what your body is for….See, your body is also God’s way of inserting you into His eternal plan for human history and forever. Body is very important. So, let’s remember that.1” Dallas Willard
Sighing is a life sustaining respiratory reflex in the body that helps preserve lung function; it naturally occurs about a dozen times an hour. Beyond the physical reflex it may be a spontaneous accompaniment of an emotional response, positive or negative. Sighing may offer some relief to tension or stress. How or whenever it occurs, we can use the body’s natural sighing as a prompt for practicing the presence of God to us.
Spending 5 minutes (or longer) with this practice at any time during the day can re-set your intention or renew your awareness of God’s Presence.
Sit. Seat yourself in a comfortable but alert position.
Notice. Gently take note of any clenching or tension in your body, any sensation of hurry or anxiousness.
Sigh. Take in a deep breath and audibly exhale in an audible sigh. 3 times total(if it is your tradition in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
Rest. In the natural cadence of your breath, rest in God’s loving presence for as long as you like.
Sigh. When you are done resting, sigh as a prayer of gratitude to God for life and breath and presence.
Take it with you. Throughout your day, notice when you naturally sigh and allow it to be a sign of God’s presence with you in your body. Or pause briefly between tasks and intentionally sigh.
Breath and Body, Healing and Gratitude Practice
Paul says, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) To constantly be thankful. Be thankful for your life, for your body, for your work, for your family, for the sky and the water and the sun and the fire. Be thankful…. When we are thankful and we live in that thankfulness and continually lift our hearts up in thankfulness towards God, he will make his presence manifest to us and we will feel His presence in what we are doing.2” Dallas Willard
We may not always have the healthiest relationships with our bodies, but they do their best to serve us and, as Dallas says, it is God’s way of inserting us into the world for good. Even, and perhaps especially, when there is fatigue, injury, or illness we can practice gratitude for our lives and bodies as a way of acknowledging God’s care and healing presence in and to our bodies. Spend 15 to 20 minutes in breathing, blessing, and resting with this practice.
Breathe. Take a deep breath and pause on the inhale, then exhale in an audible sigh. Relax into your breath and your body.
Bless. Pay attention to your body as you breathe. Beginning with your toes and moving towards the crown of your head, breathe your way slowly, pausing at every part of your body to give thanks to God for how each part serves the body, serves you, and serves others. Bless each part with a full breath.
Rest. Continue in a natural rhythm of breathing with one hand on your heart and the other arm wrapped around your middle. Rest in God’s presence manifest in your body and breath as long as you like.
Breathe. When you are through, take a deep breath with a pause, then exhale your gratitude to God for your embodied life.
Take it with you. During your day notice how many parts of the body are working to help you. For example, sip, taste, swallow, and enjoy your coffee or favorite beverage. Give thanks.
Simple Breathing, a Prayer and Presence Practice
…. I fear no evil, for Thou art with me…. Ps. 23:4
With gratitude for the body, its automatic breathing, and its postures for prayer, breath is also the one essential that sustains its life—the life of the body and the life of prayer. Praying with your breath in this practice lends some assurance for those times when a breath is the only prayer you can muster.3
Invitation. Let this poem lead you into Presence and a prayer of awareness. As you read through it, maintain a gentle rhythm of Inhale and Exhale.
Intention. Allow your awareness of breath, today, to be a with-God prayer practice.
I breathe in
wanting this to be prayer
invocation, supplication, petition.
I exhale in a sigh
and in my ears
that sound of breath;
I remember again
that the name
of the Divine
sounds like breath,
In it I know that
“Thou art with me.”
You breathe me
and I you
and this is the gift
are the sounds of love
of our love
Yes. Breathing is praying.
Embodied Life, Offering and Consecrating Practice
See, your body is also God’s way of inserting you into His eternal plan for human history and forever. Body is very important. So, let’s remember that.4” Dallas Willard
We are embodied creatures, fearfully and wonderfully made. The following practice can assist us in rightly ordering and consecrating our bodies for awareness of God’s presence to us and through us in service to others. Dallas advised returning to this prayerful practice once or twice each year. The music takes about 5 minutes to listen to once. Allow 15 to 20 minutes for noticing God’s affirmation or invitations to you.
Sit: Be seated or recline in God’s loving presence.
Listen: Play the hymn; consent to it as a prayer being sung over you. (Avo, is there a way to skip the ads? or use music only?)
Repeat and Reflect: As you listen again, notice which line you can heartily affirm. For which ones are you making a little progress?
Take My Life (And Let It Be) by Chris Tomlin. Lyrics by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879).
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.