Meditation experts have long believed in the power of the breath for lasting calm and longevity, and now there’s some science behind it. A new study at Stanford recently identified 175 specific neurons located deep in the brainstem that form the relay between our autonomic breathing center and the areas of the brain responsible for attention, arousal, and panic. These neurons tell our brain whether or not to be anxious or calm, depending on the quality of our breaths. Shallow, fast breaths mean excitement or anxiety, while long, deep ones translate to calm and peace.
So if our breath forms such a crucial foundation for our physical life, what role does it play in our spiritual life? Breath is crucial there, too. Or more accurately, the Holy Spirit — in Greek, “pneuma” is translated “Spirit,” which is sometimes read as “breath.” Paul talks about the role of the Spirit in our lives: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
Paul makes it clear that a direct effect of the Holy Spirit’s presence in us is to be a source of life and peace. If we desire a life in tune with God, the only source of life, we need the Holy Spirit. It’s through the work of the Spirit that the process of sanctification takes place in us. The Spirit leads us away from the temptation to distrust and disobey our God and towards healing and transforming us to receive true life from God. That life frees us to share with others around us the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions later in the book of Galatians: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians 6:22).
As a believer, we know that God’s Spirit is within us, and is undertaking our spiritual sanctification in Christ. And knowing that, we can take a breath and rest easy in his promises.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.