To live full, rich lives as men, there’s something simple that we all need to do — breathe.
Flying home earlier this week from leading a Crucible Project initial weekend in Houston, I pictured two men who were angry with me for an action that I had taken that morning. I closed my eyes, slowed down my breathing and noticed every breath … in and out. Then suddenly:
- I felt my heart beating. Breath and beating. I’m alive.
- Then I noticed a lightness, my happiness about the weekend overall.
- I felt fully alive, peaceful.
The simple act of noticing my breathing led to noticing my heart beating > which leads to noticing what I am feeling > which leads to connecting with my soul. I am alive.
In work and family, I have recently experienced the vital connection between breath and life. In my work as a hospital chaplain, I have watched numerous people take their last breath. No breath. No life. Her name was Anne. She was alone. She was unconscious and dying. As I sat with her, her breathing became rough and hacking. I recited Psalm 23 and then sang a hymn I remembered from by Catholic upbringing. Right then, her breathing stopped. No breath. No life. Genesis describes God breathing into the man he had formed from dust — I was witnessing the opposite. Breath ending. Life ending.
When I slow down my breathing, I become aware of God who gives me every breath and I notice me — my heart beating, my feelings, my soul.
In January, my second grandson Liam came at 3 pounds, 3 ounces. I worried that his lungs and breathing would be compromised — would God breathe life into him? Amazingly, little Liam never needed oxygen support. Now, at 11 months he is a lively kid … exploring, smiling, laughing. Often when I hold him or lie next to him as he is sleeping, I can feel his breathing. He is alive. God is giving Liam life, breath by breath.
Like I did last night, I often lead myself in a simple check-in:
- I slow my breathing.
- I notice each breath, each given by God.
- I sense God near, giving me life.
- From my breath, I feel my heart and then my feelings. I’m alive, richly alive.
My Crucible Project journey has taught me to notice my feelings, and then allow myself to actually feel them. When I do, I feel more alive and more able to connect with everyone around me. And often, the path to my feelings is simply becoming aware of my breathing.
I am interested to know what practices you have for connecting with your soul?
Try my simple check-in practice with your breathing. After trying this for two or three days, comment here on how the practice worked for you.
A rich, full life = Breathing > living > feeling > connecting. You are alive!
– By John Casey
John completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2005, is a graduate of our two-year transformational program and is a weekend leader for The Crucible Project. He enjoys writing about authentic living for men. As a senior pastor for 32 years, he has written and preached hundreds of sermons on God’s character and mission, our purpose and mission, spiritual transformation and effective relationships.
Photo Credit: Martinak5