Franciscan Spirit Blog

The Gifts of Advent Day 3: Don’t Forget to Breathe

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and the man became a living being.
—Genesis 2:7

I have an Apple watch and one of the built-in apps is called Breathe. It can be set up with notifications to remind you to take time for mindful breathing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled at it, “I don’t have time to breathe right now!” Even when what I mean is “I can’t stop what I’m doing and close my eyes and do one to three minutes of deep breathing.”

But sometimes it hits me that at times I do become so busy and stressed that I don’t take time to breathe. Irony of ironies, while I was lying in the ER last December, my watched pinged and said, “A minute of deep breathing can clear your mind and help you focus.” Yes, thank you, I’m on fourteen liters of oxygen at the moment! My mind should be clear as a bell!

There’s something a little bit crazy about using our technology to remind us of the simplest functions. I joke that my phone and my watch remind me to breathe, stand, and drink water. But it’s a sign of how often we forget to do these things. And the many mindfulness apps available for our smartphones and computers can be a great help in changing our habits and routines.

My watch isn’t wrong. A few minutes of deep breathing is an easy and refreshing way to take a break, clear my mind, check my body for stress-related aches, and get a renewed start on the tasks of the day. Long before we relied on technology, spiritual teachers in all the great religious traditions developed exercises that incorporate breathing into a prayer practice. It clears our spirits and opens a path for God’s loving voice to break through.

Support the friars this Advent!

Take a Deep Breath

Commit yourself to just five minutes to sit silently with God, feeling the breath of the Spirit with each breath you take. You might want to say a prayer with each breath: “Come, Lord Jesus,” “Emmanuel, God with us,” or “Creator of the stars of night” are good reminders of this season of Advent. The traditional Jesus prayer—“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”—is a good way to focus your breathing. In the coming days, we will suggest Scripture passages as well.

A Simple Gift

One of the great blessings of technology is the easy availability of a wide variety of daily prayers. Through email, smartphone apps, and websites, we can find new ways to access the great spiritual riches of our tradition. Spend some time today looking for something that will enhance your prayer time during this Advent season. And if you’re not into technology, there’s no shortage of traditional paper resources.

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