Prayer, Breath, Presence

It always comes back to the breath, doesn’t it?

In yoga, the word for breath is “Prana”, which is also the origin of the word “Prayer”. Breath and prayer are well acquainted with each other. A sentence in one of the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters shows us how: “He prayed as he breathed, forming no words and making no specific requests, only holding in his heart … all those people who were in stress or grief…”

In this meditation we use the inbreath and outbreath to move into a quiet, appreciative, accepting place. We remember that there is a force greater than us that breathes us. And we rest in the presence of that great force, allowing it to share our troubles and our joys.

How to Practice

Start by being present where you are. Notice the temperature of the air, the sounds, the sensations of your feet on the floor or ground. Breathe quietly. Get a sense of yourself as one melody in the symphony around you.

Breathe in the wonder of presence. It can feel like nothing at all, or it can feel peaceful, amazing, beautiful.

Breathe out whatever you are sharing: a trouble you find hard to hold or hard to release or hard to accept, whatever joy is so poignant it seems almost too full to hold, or smaller momentary concerns or pleasures. Whatever it is you are sharing, don’t give it words or form. You may not even have words for it. This is not the right time for requests. Let it be quiet. Give it a moment. Give yourself a moment.

Continue breathing in and out in this way for as long as feels right. If you are busy, give it a few seconds. If you can linger in this, notice how it will lift on its own after a while, letting you know that it’s time to move on.


At first you may find all you are bringing to this meditation is problems: the humiliation you feel when your boss has just shouted at you, your worry about money, the helplessness you feel about the illness of a friend. But after a while, as you get used to doing this meditation, you may find pleasure in bringing the joys to it also: a sense of celebration at a baby’s birth, delight in your friend finding love, the quiet pleasure you feel as you watch a beautiful sunset. And if you can keep the words out of it and rest simply in whatever energy you are feeling at the time, it can include emotions, feelings, concepts, or mixtures of them all that have no names, that have no language.

One of the very nice things about this meditation is that instead of having “greater power” over there and “me” over here, it brings them together. It may be a means to attain a sense of unity of “greater power” and “me”, but at the same time, just doing the meditation is an expression of “greater power”. The “I” who calls is the “I” who responds.