SpiritToday’s Word: ‘Spirit’ … as in breath; as in a few thoughts from “Episode 6: Spirited.”

When we talk about spirit, spiritual, spirituality—that which is spirited, we are really talking about things that are often beyond our capacity to fully explain, and in many cases understand fully.

And perhaps we don’t need to. After all, we’re using finite words to describe the Infinite.

Our language is limited. The meanings of words we use change over time; the nuances shift, the definitions fade, new ways of understanding old words come and go. This is true for spirituality. So when we talk about spiritual lives – or as I prefer to say, our ‘spirited’ lives, and what it means to thrive as spirited people, we’re really walking into mystery.

We’re walking into one big, beautiful, funky, ancient, poetic, complicated, expansive, wonder-filled, mystery. And that’s a good thing.

When we talk about spirituality, at some point we’re talking about breath, which, in its very essence is spirit. The ancient words of the Hebrew scriptures—when they speak of spirit, they’re really talking about breath.

Belden Lane, in his remarkable book, Backpacking with the Saints, writes about breath and where it comes from. Check this out:

“Our first intense experience of the world comes through breathing—gasping for air. For the rest of our lives this happens automatically, without conscious effort, handled by a respiratory control center at the base of the brain. We breathe an average of 28,000 times a day. But breath is more than a physiological function. It represents an interior, spiritual dimension of a life that is more than us. According to the Torah, God’s breathing brought the first humans into existence, filling them with the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Called by various names—[including the Greek word, pneuma, and the Hebrew word ruach], breath is a divine energy recognized across every religious tradition.” (Belden’s new book, page 48, “Air: The Child).

With that in mind, let’s just call our next breath the gift that it is.


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