Breathe, Meditate (Part 2)

Psalm 46: 10             TPT

Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.

Let’s continue our look at meditation today. I hope you have concluded that meditation is a vital part of the Christian walk. If you have not, then you might want to conduct a search on the word meditate. Secondly, I hope you have decided to make it part of your walk with Christ.

The first step in effective meditation comes from Psalm 46: 10. The NLT reads, “Be still, and know that I am God!” In order to know God, we must first find stillness in our being. For me that took two forms. First, I had to learn to relax my body. Ultimately that ended up being the easiest. However, Pat Richards from Impact Ministry brought up a good point yesterday. Although I was talking about a virtual cup of coffee in yesterday’s Word of the Day, she pointed out that drinking coffee before trying to meditate or during can sabotage your success because of the caffeine.

The second was learning how to get my mind to be still. This was a great deal more challenging for me. One of the techniques I learned from Dr. Jim Richards was to take all those ideas that were bombarding my mind and tie a balloon to them and release them. The first time I tried that it caused me increased stress because I didn’t want to lose those thoughts. So, I imagined God above me raking in each balloon I released. That worked for me. I also put a note pad and pen beside me when I was learning to quiet my mind. All those “to do’s” and ideas that came to me got written down on that pad so that my mind could relax.

We’ve talked about this stillness in relationship to worry this week. The God’s Word translation told us to let go of our concerns. Okay, what does that have to do with being still so we can know Yahweh as God? If you are worried and agitated, then your inner person is anything but still. You need to release those concerns to the Father so that your heart can be calm. You can receive God’s peace when you feel He has all your concerns in hand. Look at today’s version of this same scripture. It too is coaxing us into releasing all of our worries and concerns so that we can be silent and still and watch God show His divinity in our lives.

We spoke about breath this week too. I find that slow, deep breaths help both my physiology and my psychology. If you count as you breathe, maybe inhaling to a count of five and doing the same as you exhale, you will likely find that your body and your mind ease. Also, think thoughts like, “With every exhalation, I relax a bit more.” You can even breathe, exhale, relax your legs; breathe, exhale, relax your arms; and so on. Don’t forget to relax your face. You would be surprised how much tension you may hold in your face.

We are learning how to relax so we can learn to meditate but releasing the tension from your body and from your mind will improve your health and your mood too. God knew what He was doing when He told us to meditate. He was instructing us for our good.

Walk through these relaxation steps today. Find out how many breaths it takes you to calm yourself down on the inside and the outside. Within a short time, you will reduce that number significantly. After you have calmed yourself down, endeavor to hold onto that peace and have a good relaxed day, all day.

Don’t Do It Now

Joshua 1: 8

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

You’ve heard the popular saying, “Do it Now.” It was a great message and helped a lot of us in our everyday life. In fact, that saying has become part of the cultural jargon of our age. So, why am I telling you not to do it now? There is a time to be still and that is the subject of this Word of the Day.

Have you ever sat down to meditate and your mind been flooded with the myriad of things you need to do? Of course. Me too. We run at such a fast pace at times that it is challenging, no, very challenging to slow down physically, much less mentally, long enough to meditate.

Today’s verse is one of my favorites because it is so poignant. Moses has just died and Joshua is about to take over for him. Yahweh Father spoke with him regarding this huge task and God gave Him the best advice He had. Today’s verse is that advice. Now, to my way of thinking, if meditation is the single piece of advice God gave the one who was to lead His people, Israel, then it must be really important. Note that God didn’t say, “Pray Joshua, make sure you pray every day.” No, He told him to meditate. So, I took that to say that meditation is really important stuff. So, I set a goal to meditate daily.

Wow, what a challenge that turned out to be. First, I couldn’t sit still. I used Dr. Jim Richard’s guided meditations to help me learn to calm my physiology. Then, I found my mind was running rampant. Dr. Mark Virkler taught me Psalm 46: 10, “Be still and know that I am God, (KJV).” Well, easier said than done but I knew this stillness was important. The NASB says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Wow, that is loud. It goes along with some of our recent Words of the Day about letting God work in your life. I needed to master this skill, and I finally did. One of the things I had to learn, though, is “Do not do it now.” I had to discipline myself to let things wait. I had a to do list with each item prioritized. I knew the most important things to get done but I actually treated them all as if they were “A” priorities. If something came off of my master list and onto my daily list, then it felt to me like an imperative. Those things haunted me when I tried to meditate. Additionally, when I slowed down a tick, all sorts of other to do’s and ideas came to mind. Finally, I learned to put my to do list or even just a pad of paper and a pen beside me when I sat down to meditate. As those things came to mind, I wrote them down and went back to meditation. Sometimes it was more of a mind purge than meditation but then again, that turned out to be one of the benefits of meditation. Some of the things God had been trying to show me for ages freely flowed out of my sub-consciousness as soon as I got still for a moment.

Whatever your “A” priority is, and I am hoping meditation is one of them, you may have to learn, as I did, not to do everything else which comes to your mind. We have to learn to calm ourselves down and stick to our task. Writing down those other things is one way to help you stay on task. You cannot always do everything now and get the priority items done. Those are usually the more involved tasks, the ones which take a bit of time and concentration. It is so easy to do the little minute tasks instead of sticking to the big, important item. You will feel like you got a lot done but you will not be accomplishing the important, life altering tasks. Put these on your schedule, block out time for them on your calendar. Close your office door, turn off you cell phone and focus. Breathe deeply and settle your physiology. Breathe and relax your mind. Turn your eyes on Jesus. You will see that he is there with you and that he is already paying attention to you. Then ask him to help you with your task. Invite the Holy Spirit to be the leader. Put your mind on them and let them guide and support you. I promise you, this is a better way to work than the haphazard way I did.

Hot Yoga

Psalm 46: 10                          KJV

Be still, and know that I am God.

Today’s Word of the Day is dedicated to my friend, Marco Gravino. This past weekend I attended my high school class reunion. Marco and I attended school together from middle school until high school graduation. I am happy to know and happy to say that Marco is a man of faith. What a joy it is to discover after so many years that people you knew and cared about all those years ago have grown up to have strong faith in God. It is nourishment for the soul.

Marco was, and still is, an athlete. As we talked, we realized that we both have participated in hot yoga. The revelation we gained in yoga is that power is not the answer. In many western societies, the adage, “If you can’t fix it, get a bigger hammer,” is symbolic of our response to problems. We tend to apply power to fix a problem and if that doesn’t resolve it, we apply more power. In yoga, the typical athletic approach of using more force, more muscle simply does not work. When I could not get into a pose, I would muster more strength out of my muscles and try to force my body into the correct position. As all of you who practice yoga know, that is completely counter-productive. Learning to relax into a pose challenged everything in my athletic mindset.

The use of breath is completely different as well. As we muster strength out of our muscles we tend to hold our breath for a big exhalation at the end of an exertion. Yoga, which comes from eastern thought, would have you breathe smoothly and freely. When a pose challenges, you concentrate on relaxing breaths rather than focusing on muscle strength. It is completely counter-intuitive and yet it works.

Marco and I talked about how this is a metaphor for life and Marco said it would make a good Word of the Day to which I heartily agreed. I have found that my life has been punctuated by this tendency to try harder, strive more, push harder. As I am learning to be still and let God be known, I find the secret is very much like yoga. I needed to learn to breathe and relax. This has been the single biggest revelation in my Christian life in the last fifteen years. It has been especially critical in my ability to hear God speak. The New American Standard Version of this verse reads, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Well, “strive” was my middle name. My characteristic response to a challenge was to work more hours, work faster, work harder. In other words, apply more strength and more power. In my attempts to hear God’s voice, this straining and striving actually made it more difficult. I had to learn to be still. I cannot express what a challenge that was for me. First I would get my body still only to have my mind run rampant. Then I would try to quiet my mind. Before five minutes passed I was usually bouncing my leg or off thinking about all the things I needed to do.

The secret for me was in learning to breathe and even learning how to breathe. I found that in my striving mode, I tended to breath shallowly and from my chest. I learned, though, to breathe from my diaphragm and to breathe deeply and slowly. Now, with one deep breath and a full exhalation, I can instantly calm down my physiology and my mind. Sure, it took practice but I have finally discovered that when I am still and quiet, God can be God. There is room for Him in my mind and heart when I pause long enough to breathe. He is waiting to impart wisdom to me but I must be still so I can hear. When I calm my physicality, when I cease striving, then I give Him the space to act for me. He gets to be God instead of me.

Life is happening all around us every day. Life lessons are in the next breath. From learning how to relax into a yoga pose rather than trying to muscle into it, I learned a valuable spiritual principle and life skill. Relax, be still and let God show Himself. Thanks Marco for pointing out how God is teaching and leading us, giving us valuable life lessons in our everyday walk with Him. Be still, cease striving and let God ease you into your yoga pose and your new revelation with Him.

Let God be God

Psalm 46: 10 King James Version

Be still and know that I am God.

I am again on this journey to better know God. It is a daily journey for us all but do you also have seasons where your search is hungrier and your need to know Him more compelling? That is where I am and I would like to take you along with me on this journey and really I have little choice because I cannot separate anything I am doing from this deep need to know Him better. It is my prayer that my exploration will benefit you.

Clearly God is telling us in this verse that to know Him better we are going to have to be still for a bit. I wonder if he had our time and our culture in His mind when He gave these words to the psalmists. We are a busy people and being busy is a badge of honor most of us wear proudly. I have found that I can fill up a day with no trouble. Sometimes I get to racing around so fast that even when I sit down to have some quality time with our father my insides are still racing a mile a minute. I don’t think we are ever going to know our father at the deepest levels if we do not learn to slow down and be still. This stillness certainly starts in our bodies. It is difficult to quiet your mind if you can’t first slow down your physiology. How long can you sit absolutely still? You should time yourself. I found I was terrible at just being physically still.

Next, can you release the thoughts going through your mind? I found that I had a very undisciplined mind. It was constantly on one thing or another. So I focus on a picture. I have a couple that I use. Sometimes I picture Christ on the cross. That is very sobering for me and slows me down. At times, though, seeing our Lord on the cross is too much so I picture him beside a stream at one of my favorite places. It is a spot along the Appalachian Trail in South Carolina where I used to like to stop, take off my boots and put my feet in the cool water and its being very picturesque and detailed helps me to focus. Still sometimes that doesn’t work either and then I imagine a single candle burning. I watch the flame dance around. When I can slow down I invariably find Father awaiting me. I am sure that you have ways of quieting your mind, heart and body. When you do, there is the place where it is easiest to hear the father.

However, there is something deeper in this stillness than just slowing our spirits, souls and bodies. In this passage I hear, “Cease your endless striving and experience me, know me as your God.” So many of my prayers over the years have asked God what I should do. Increasingly the answer has been, “Nothing. Just pray.” Now I hear Him saying “Be still and know that I am God.” In other words, He wants us to let Him be God. He wants to show Himself in our lives and through our lives. The key for me is to let God be God and endeavor not to get in His way. “Don’t worry. Don’t strive. Don’t let anxiety have a place in your heart. Be still and at ease knowing that I am your God. I will keep you and care for you.” This is what I hear God speaking to us.