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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Meditation, Part 5 - Calming Your Body

How would you like to enter the presence of the Lord?

It's do-able.  It's possible.

In fact, a prophet of the Lord said so.  In June 1967, President David O. McKay said that "Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord." (Pres. David O. McKay, "Consciousness of God: Supreme Goal of Life," Improvement Era, June 1967, p. 80–82).

So, to enter his presence, we must meditate.  To meditate -- to do it the right way -- doesn't involve sitting in a corner, wearing a white robe and chanting while leaning back and forth (as one friend supposes).  It doesn't involve anything "New Agey" (or else, why would a prophet be endorsing it?).  Nor does it mean turning off your cell phone or laptop, sitting in one place for 30 seconds, thinking about what shopping needs to be done, then getting bored and getting up and saying meditation is a waste of time.

No.  If you want to do it right, you need to prepare your heart, shedding your mental and emotional ties to all that is telestial and seeking stillness.  You must also seek and enjoy a still place where you can meditate, and a still time where you can meditate without interruption. 

All these steps are essential preparations for calming your your body, then your mind.

In past blog posts, I've mentioned how essential "stillness" is in meditating.  No wonder the Lord counseled us to:
"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalms 46:10)

Calming Your Body

If you seek to pass into the presence of the Lord, you're not going it in an excited state.  In my opinion, no amount of caffeine or sugar-sweetened anythings are going to effectively catalyze your calmed state.  You have to calm your body down.  Relax.  Be still.

One of the best ways to do that is to calm your breathing.

Sometime, open up your scriptures and research all the times the word "breath" or "breathe" is mentioned.

The correlation between breath and the spirit is amazing.  Here are a few examples:
"All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils." (Job 27:3) 
"The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life." (Job 33:4) 
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) 
"They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths." (Psalms 135:17) 
"And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life." (Genesis 6:17) 
"Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live." (Ezekiel 37:5) 
"Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord." (Psalms 150:6)
Furthermore, in John 20:22, Jesus "breathed" on his disciples and said to them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost". 

Breath and Meditation

Breath has substantial relevance in meditation.  Those who have the greatest success meditating find a still place and time in which to meditate.  They then position themselves comfortably, relaxing cross-legged or kneeling.  They next spend 5-10 minutes breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth. 

Here's what one LDS friend (with considerable meditative experience) recommends:
"Do not worry about your thoughts at this moment; simply focus on thinking "Iiiiiinnnnn" as you breathe in and "Ooouuuuuuttttt" as you breathe out. Some prefer 'aaahhhhhhh' on out because of the abruptness of the ending of the sound 't'.'

On the inhale, count slowly and steadily in your mind to 5. Focus on keeping the inhale going at a steady pace; in other words, do your best to have done 20% of the inhale at the count of '1', 40% at '2' and so forth. You will probably be filling your lungs more than they normally ever are filled from the count between 4 to 5. I get the sensation that my lungs are getting stretched.

Then hold the breath for a similar count of 5. There is a correct way and an incorrect way to hold the breath; There should be no tightening or closing off the airways, it should just be an extended pause between inhale and exhale.

Then exhale, and (you guessed it!) don't let the air all out in a rush. A slow steady exhalation over the same 5 count. During the last 20%, you should be really making an effort to empty your lungs as much as possible. Like the last 20% of the inhale, on this part of the exhale you will realize that in normal breathing you never empty your lungs this much. Over time, work on getting every bit of air out on the exhale that you can without discomfort.

Now comes the hardest part (and the exhale is difficult to get right!) but now you pause again at the exhale for a slow count of 5. When you start doing this, on your next inhale you are almost certainly going to gulp in the air! Be patient with yourself and over time just work towards spending the same amount of time on the inhale, the pause, the exhale, and the second pause. You may need to start counting to only 3. When doing all 4 steps at a slow count of 5 becomes easy, you can increase the count. The most I ever could do and maintain for 5 minutes or more was a count of 8. That was after years of breath meditation!

Early on, you will probably have a lot of difficulty doing this for more than a few minutes. Find what you can do and maintain for 5 to 10 minutes."
The objective is simple:

Take things gradually -- possibly daily, over a period of several weeks or months -- until you are consistently able to quickly reach a very relaxed and calm state.

Yes, this takes a little work.  But the payoff is extraordinary:
"And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." (Isa. 32:17; emphasis mine)


  1. What a beautifully written article--I really liked seeing all the scriptures related to breathing. Thank you.

  2. Going to try and start doing this. With 8 kids (& one on the way) I make time to read (as they play around me) but do find time to be still and meditate and pray to be one of my biggest challenges.