Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yoga, the divine in me - THE BREATH

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
- Psalm 150:6

In yoga class, I am told when the breath is controlled the mind follows. As a scientist by education, this makes sense to me. Normally, the breath is controlled involuntarily by the brain. It is constant and steady. We don’t think about it. We breathe to take in oxygen to supply the muscles and brain with necessary oxygen to produce energy. When we consciously take control over the inflow and outflow of air, our thoughts turn to the rhythm and intensity of the chest cavity rising and falling. We actually experience vital blood invigorating cells throughout the body with life giving oxygen. A physical increase in energy and awareness occurs in both the muscles and brain as a result.

The physical experience of breathing becomes a spiritual journey to many practitioners of yoga. They perceive the calming of the mind, vitality, and energy that ensues from breathing to be a result of a spiritual awakening. The life force, known as prana, combines with the control, known as yama, creating pranayama breath. Anxiety, stress, tension, and toxic thinking wither away as the controlled breath deepens and broadens in the chest cavity.

This experience reminds me of a story in 1 Kings Chapter 19. The prophet Elijah having been zealous for God flees from those trying to kill him. He finds shelter in a cave on the mountain of Horeb (the same place Moses received the commandments from God) some 40 days travel from his attackers. God asks Elijah why he journeyed to this place – mostly likely because Elijah was not directed to do so by God. Having acted apart from God’s direction Elijah replies:

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty: The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

- 1 Kings 19:8-13

When we as God’s children act outside the direction of God, taking matter in to our own hands per se – we often find our minds consumed with raging thoughts like powerful wind, earthquakes and fire. God is not in our raging thoughts. It is when we calm our thoughts and turn to Him for peace, perspective, and provision that we are redirected back to His plan and His purposes.

This gentle nudging of the Spirit of God occurs as we enter the presence of God. This posture of worship occurs when:

  • We proclaim God to be divine, holy, and sovereign and we are not.
  • In this posture of reverence we lay down our SELF: our rebellious striving, our self-pity, our self-righteousness, and our raging thoughts in repentance.
  • In our posture of submission, we receive God’s mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.
  • We listen for the gentle whisper of God.
  • We praise Him for His goodness.
  • We go and follow His good, perfect, and pleasing will.

Our life comes from the Father (Genesis 2:7) for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts ). As we stay connected to the Father (John 15:1-17) we receive:

  • His mercy and grace
  • His healing and comfort
  • His wisdom
  • His discipline and training
  • His hope
  • His peace and joy
  • His provision, protection, and perspective

Apart from the Father, we can do nothing (John 15:5). The natural comes first and after that the spiritual (1 Corinthians ). That is to say, our spiritual awakening comes after the receiving of the Spirit of God. Prior to that, accepting the things that come from the Spirit of God are foolishness, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians ).

It is believing, Jesus to be the “lamb of God” who takes away the sins of the world (John ), that we are reunited with God (Romans ) and receive the indwelling of the Spirit of God (John -27). Only then, are we able to recognize His gentle whispers and only after we exhaust our self in reverent submission to God. We lay aside our self-serving agenda to receive the vital, life giving, WORD of God.

So our every thought, utterance, and deed must come from the breath of God. The divine that is in me is from God - not from my own striving or raging thoughts.

How about you? Are you prepared in repentance to lay aside your SELF and seek the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and reverence? Will you become a branch that bears the fruit of love, peace, and joy?

Come near to God and He will come near to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.
- James 4:8, 10

 Be sure to read the other postings in this series titled YOGA, THE DIVINE IN ME.