In our fast-paced, busy world, do you ever feel like you barely have time to catch your breath? I do. Between housework, taxiing kids to practices of all sorts, church life, meal prepping, paperwork and all other manner of things, it's easy to find myself go,go,going from the time I get up til the end of the day. More often than not, when I do take time to sit down for some quiet time, or to pray, it's very difficult to turn off all the swirl within my own self.
There's a term for all of that stress and swirl going on inside that is constantly keeping us feeling driven...'soul clutter'. Just like the piles of papers that accumulate all over my dining room table, that have to be shuffled around whenever we want to sit down for a meal...so it goes with our insides. At least mine, anyway.
I think we can underestimate the toll that all that accumulating internal clutter can take. We need to be purposeful about taking some time to take inventory so that we can turn our cares over to God, and be free to connect with Him and be refreshed by His Spirit. Otherwise, it's so easy to think we just don't have time to spend with God, or listening for his Voice...and that's not a good place to be. In thinking about this idea of 'decluttering' my mind and soul, I was reminded of Psalm 42:5
Why, my soul, are you downcast?So, how do we go about taking a 'breather'? Well, it may be just as literally as that. Stopping to breath.
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God...
Medical research shows that there are many actual physical benefits to meditation. Growing up in a fairly conservative setting, I always picked up the sense that 'meditation', per se, was bad, or at least dangerous. Dabbling in some eastern religious practices that I shouldn't. And I guess somehow I got the idea that when scripture spoke about 'meditation' what it must really mean was 'study'. But the two are vastly different, and I do believe that it is good and healthy for us to meditate on scripture.
So, what exactly is meditation? Well, here's one definition: "continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature". Doesn't that sound lofty (and overwhelming)? Well, my definition would be to stop, focus on one thing, and let it really soak in. There...isn't that less scary? Often meditation involves being still, quiet, and relaxing yourself. Taking slow, deep breaths. Choosing, by an act of your will to settle down all that is within you. Clearing the soul clutter.
Lately I've been exploring something called "breath prayer". Now, some people might get all freaked out and think I'm delving into some New Age practice...before you get your knickers in a knot, relax and hear me out. Breath prayers have been something Christians have done since the second century, and it's really just a form of teaching yourself to do, as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 "pray without ceasing". Now, that's a hefty thought...praying all the time. Unless you break it down to very small bits, that you can teach yourself to become as natural as your breathing...
In a nutshell, a breath prayer is a short prayer, or phrase from scripture, that can be said in the course of an inhale/exhale. There are actually a few different ways to do a breath prayer, and if you are interested, there's plenty of info online that explains it in depth. What I have been focusing on is choosing a phrase that speaks truth, as well as is calming and soothing to me. Such as...on the inhale, "Not my will..." and on the exhale "but yours be done." After spending some quiet time repeating this phrase in my mind, in rhythm with my breathing (I do it silently, because frankly, talking out loud when I'm alone feels weird to me), I find it so very easily comes back to me throughout the day. And when it does, I also become more aware to take deeper breaths and relax my muscles. It's forming a habit it me that reminds me to cast my cares on Him, because He does care for me!