In… Out… In… Out… This time a deeper breath. In….. Out….. Deeper still. In: taking in the whole of the God’s Spirit—love, compassion, forgiveness, connectedness, grace, blessings. Out: giving back to the world—people, creatures, the created world—what you have taken in. Breathing in God’s Spirit, breathing out what we have been given. Breathe deeply into God’s Spirit, all the way from the tips of our toes to the top of our head. Breathe out all that we are, giving in love.
The cycle of breathing mirrors our cycle of living. We can’t only breathe in, our bodies have no capacity for more than one breath at a time. We must exhale, letting go of the carbon dioxide elements, the waste products, what is no longer needed, what is healed, what is not of God. So we breathe in God’s Spirit and give it out again in the most natural of cycles. Breathing in and breathing out. That is what the spiritual life is all about.
This is a daily practice, breathing in the Spirit, breathing out in kind. Daily, we must sustain ourselves by spending time in God—in his word, his presence, the silence of our hearts. Daily, we must look for opportunities to love another, to befriend the friendless, to help another, to be present to someone else. This is the rhythm of the spiritual life, just like breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide for the health of our bodies; it is the sustaining rhythm of our lives.
Remember that most of us breathe quite shallowly, that’s the effect of anxiety. As we practice this daily rhythm of breathing deeper and deeper into God’s presence, then we have much more to give out to the world. As we breathe in more and more Spirit, we notice in ourselves the capacity to trust, to be patient, to truly love, to serve grows and deepens. And we notice what is getting in the way of our loving back, so on the exhale we let go of all that is in our way.
The spiritual life is really this simple. With the inhaling breath we focus on God, and with the exhaling we act out in the world as we were each designed to do. Taking in/ giving out becomes automatic over time. As with the autonomic nervous system we do not have to remember to breathe in or out, it is just what we do. It is how we live.
We can see how well we are doing spiritually by the quality of what we are giving. We are always giving out whether we know it or not, but we can be polluting without awareness by tainting everything we do with anxiety or frustration or anger. Take a close look at what you put out into the world: is it loving? Is it forgiving? Is it compassionate? Is it authentically yours? If the answer is no, you need more time with God, asking for help with your attitudes and actions. This is how we manage our spiritual lives.