way to pray

The Most Powerful Way to Pray! Hint: I Didn’t Learn It in Church

Breathing Permanently Changed the Way I Pray

Who would have thought a deep breath in the belly, followed by a deep breath in the chest, followed by a warrior-like exhalation from the mouth would introduce me to God?

As a coach and 12-step practitioner I’m always on the hunt for new modalities to crack the code on living a more fulfilling, content life.

That means — for this agnostic who was forced to go to church — developing a spiritual life and Higher Power connection.

Which brought me to attempt meditation.

(My monkey mind, but with a lot more traffic!)

When you have a monkey mind like mine (a lot of alliteration there), you can find the idea of meditation terrifying.

Who wants to sit perfectly still which a pinched back, stiff neck and a brain sending you paranoid rantings at the speed of Mach One?

Not me.

But when I popped over to a local meditation center online I discovered they offered a class called Breathwork. With the emphasis on “work.”

It’s been prayer-altering.

For thirty minutes I take strong breaths into the belly, chest and exhale forcefully from the mouth with forty other participants.

This floods the bloodstream with oxygen and brings up every damn thing I’ve ever repressed in this life and perhaps the previous life I shared with Shirley MacClaine as two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

I tend to have multiple epiphanies while breathing (not the other multiple, sadly) that I instantly forget once the class is over.

It’s like being hit-and-run by Intuition and Joy.

So, I’ve taken to leaving voice memos on my phone the instant I stagger out of class. My first one was a revelation. I had no idea that I’d allowed the religion of my upbringing to thoroughly shut down my ability to connect with God.

Here’s what I blurted out while fellow over-oxygenated zombies filed past me in the lobby:

“I realize that when I pray, I assume I’m not perfect enough for God. I assume God disapproves of me, is disappointed in me. So, my prayer then comes from a place of neediness, shame, embarrassment, cynicism and rebellion.

“What’s becoming clear is that I approach prayer not believing God loves me exactly as I am right now. I don’t know that He’s proud of me, thinks I’m marvelous, unconditionally roots for me and that He hopes I’ll realize that the only person who has the power to hurt me with judgment and shame … is me.

“So, when I can enter prayer knowing how loved I am, and wanting to love myself as much as God already loves me … it completely changes the prayer. The prayer moves from:

  • neediness to gratitude
  • from shame to worthiness
  • from embarrassment to openness
  • from cynicism to optimism
  • from rebellion to humility
  • And to even more gratitude that this available spirit would love me better than I love myself.

“That He loves me perfectly. Just as I am. (Much as Mark Darcy loved Bridget Jones just as she was!) And that He accepts me just as I am. And has no expectations of me, except the hope to walk with me on the rest of my journey. To support me in any way needed; in the decisions I make and actions I take.

“Perhaps the only time I should notice Shame (as a red flag, not a punishment) is when I shut out that unconditional love, appreciation and approval. Because when I do that, I’m left alone with my busy brain, which is wired by all the negativity I’ve absorbed in life.”

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My voice memo ended there, because I’d stopped breathing quite so deeply and had a sudden hunger for fried calamari.

But I want to remember, and never forget, that my relationship with the “God of My Understanding” is deeply personal. And I will not allow any person or institution to get between us anymore.

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