There's a lot of work before us and the days are anxious. In this episode, co-host Rev. Ryan Dunn leads a simple breathing and mediation practice offering refreshment and renewal.
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Do meditative and contemplative practices intrigue you? Our 7 Days in Spiritual Journaling workbook offers more ways to reflect and connect. Or check out Ryan's tutorials on some other contemplative practices.
This is the Compass Podcast where we get a glimpse of the divine in the everyday. My name is Ryan Dunn. I’m on this by myself for this episode. Actually more of mini episode. Pierce is on vacation, collecting some well-needed rest. And it’s well-needed because this is a lot of work before right now. I’m not just talking about Pierce and I. I’m talking about a lot of work before us, the people of faith, the community of faith. Events including the murder of George Floyd are clear reminders that we have a lot of work to do, especially in the church.
A lot of the conversations we’re having around racism are, for lack of a better way of putting it, they’re wearying. Some are wearying because they include voices that have been ignored for way too long. Others are wearying because honestly some people just don’t get it. There are those who deny that racism is a problem, or want to deny any kind of responsibility in the ongoing existence of racism. So when we were talking about content, they can lend some assistance to (?)fight the momentum of this new ??? time. We began hearing pleas for energy. People want strength to continue to work for justice. Some folks are in need of feelings of refreshment. Really, aren’t we all from time to time? It’s June 2020. We’ve wearied of conversations that don’t yield needed changes. We’re wearied of stay-at-home orders to the point that many of us will risk going out despite rising Covid infection numbers. In short, we’re looking for renewal for the work ahead of us.
Yeah. How do you find rest and renewal? Are there specific practices that rejuvenate you? How do you find renewal for your soul? For many people they find clarity and renewal through some kind of centering practice. You can call that meditation or contemplative prayer or silent time. With our urge to find energy and renewal I thought I might offer a simple mini episode detailing a centering practice focusing on our breath. So that will be this episode.
Now I recognize that you may not be listening to this in the most optimal environment for contemplative practice. I often listen to podcasts while I’m doing something else like driving or walking the dogs. So this will be an adaptive practice, meaning you can go the whole 9 yards and sit some place comfortable with eyes closed, or you can pray with eyes open and body moving and hopefully encounter a sense of presence and renewal even as your body moves. Again, the important focus of this practice is breath, which I hope is a part of your activity no matter what you’re doing.
My friend Joseph Yu recent posted an article on our website at UMC.org that reminds us that God’s name is reflective of breath. Even our Westernized version of this name sounds like breathing. Yah-weh. What a fantastic reminder of God’s presence. So let’s start there.
Get as comfortable as possible—whatever space you’re in and focus in on your breath.
Let’s become totally aware of our breath. There’s a little game you can play to bring hyperawareness to your breath. We’re gonna breathe in for a steady four count, and then breathe out for an eight count at the same tempo. So it goes like this: In, 2, 3, 4, and out, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Again, it’s a centering practice. Take a breath in and a breath out. And again. In, 2, 3, 4 and out 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Again, 2, 3, 4; out 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Are you aware of your breath? Are you aware of your need for breath? Let your breath go now. Breathe naturally. As you breathe, feel God’s presence each time you pull that air in and each time you let that air go. Yah-weh.
First John 4 says God is love. God is known in love. Each time you breathe in you are breathing in love. As you breathe out, while we’re relinquishing that love rather, you are exhaling love into the world. You are releasing love to a world desperately in need of more love. You are a conduit for that love. Breathe in. Breathe out. And spend a moment there. Breath in grace, exhale and release love.
You may find that distracting thoughts of life intruding into your practice here. And that’s okay. No admonishment is needed. You’re not doing this wrong. Simply acknowledge the thought as it comes to you, whatever it is; whether it’s an idea, a thing to do, a worry, an external distraction. Acknowledge and release that thought to God as you breathe in and out. Release it for the moment and focus back on your breath. Each breath now you’re falling more and more deeply into God’s presence.
Again, outside thoughts will enter in. offer them over to God. If you’re able turn your palms up in a gesture of relinquishing. Maybe you can lay your hands on your lap before you. Or, you can turn them up at your sides. Does this physical adaptation affect your mind? Breathe in. Breathe out. What is a word you relate to God? It may help to use that word as part of your practice. So maybe you think God and you think grace, or you think peace, or comfort, or salvation. Mentally recite whatever word comes to you as you breathe in. With each breath in we acknowledge who God is and how we are encountering God in our lives. We encounter God in grace. In peace. In comfort. In salvation. In justice.
Sometimes it’s difficult to be still and silent in the mind. Maybe today you’re just not locking in. Know that just as your breath is present, so is God and God’s love. I imagine God delights in our attempts at intention to simply be present with God. And just as your breath is present despite a distracted mind, so, too, is God’s love present even when we’re unaware of it. May the knowledge and momentary awareness of that love bring you peace and restoration right now.
I’m gonna recede now so these next several moments may just be between you and God. The music will play. But please take as long as you wish engaging in this practice in presence and peace.