Through intentional breathing, I can subtly affect both my heart rhythm and my interior life. Such gentle guidance constitutes a form of asceticism whereby I can calm the disorders of my heart and create the opportunity to receive God’s love. Another way to put it is that meditation and prayer must be integrated into the constant call of Jesus Christ to experience healing and transformation in a way that frees me to love God and neighbor. If I practice some esoteric spirituality while continuing to commit mortal sins, I’m living in an illusion and not following the will of God.
With this in mind, praying with the breath can be a powerful means of helping me to open my heart to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. As I move beyond discursive and analytic thinking, I give room for a more intuitive means of understanding. Of course, any intuition and inspiration must be weighed using good discernment, but often my overly rational way of seeing can limit my receptive potential. As the saying goes, sometimes we need to move from the head to the heart.
To do so, I can use a simple technique, and I encourage you to play with it. Traditionally, the Eastern Christians would use the Jesus prayer and would combine its recitation with the breath. On the inhales, they would pray part of the prayer, and on the exhale they would pray the other half. Likewise, St. Ignatius of Loyola suggests such a practice with the Our Father and the Hail Mary in his Spiritual Exercises.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.The Jesus Prayer
In addition, while combining formal prayer with rhythmic breathing, they would also advise that one pay attention to the beating of the heart. When we learn to listen to our hearts, we often find that they give us clues about what we are experiencing. We begin to notice when our heart beat is elevated or when it seems weak.
Lord, thank you for making me notice Your sacred love.