The Mystery of Breath


The physical reality of breathing is so familiar to us that we may not pay much attention to it until we are made aware of its absence.

The experience of being dumped by a wave at Scarborough when I first arrived at that beach, made me very conscious of waiting for the turbulence to stop so that I could emerge for that precious breath.

Being present at the bedside of someone about to take their last breath can be an extraordinary moment. How mysterious that last breath – or the first breath taken by a newborn child.

How vulnerable we are and how dependent on the breath.

There is the ordinary everyday reality of breathing but there is also a mysterious breathing which can take over in moments of deep calm and concentration; a breath which takes us into a more profound silence and stillness.

Valentin Tomberg, a contemporary spiritual teacher, reminds us that the religious traditions have known this and have shaped practices which help us to become aware of this breath that lies beneath the familiar physical action of breathing.

He says that in a more primal time or among people closely in touch with the earth, the breath that nourishes the body and the breath that nourishes the soul are one. For us, in our modern technological societies, that is usually not the case. There is a separation. But by consciously paying attention to the breath in ways suggested by the religious traditions and by teachers of meditation, we will become aware of this deeper breath praying within us.

Valentin Tomberg puts it this way: The breathing of the breath of life in our deep spirit, in the kernel of our being is eternally coming into being from God. God is continually breathing us into life. When we become conscious of this breath we become conscious of our True Self. …We experience our true self as a star in the heaven of God’s eternal being.

He suggests a simple practice that will help us discover the presence of this breath that allows us to know the presence of our soul; that mirrors the presence of its peace and quiet and depth beneath the often turbulent events in our everyday living. A larger breath that will not cease when we die.

Go out at sunset and breathe into that moment with gratitude for the warmth and life we receive each day. ( You may notice groups of people who drive to the beach at sunset to do something similar.)

Go out at night, breathe and become inwardly still. Look up to the stars and the night sky and breathe with the cosmos.

Finally, go out at dawn and watch the birth of a new day. Breathe into that hope and that new beginning.

This is the inner breathing of the soul which breathes in God or a Higher Self. It expands our awareness of who we really are.

1.Valentin Tomberg. Lazarus Come Forth. P.275.

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