Scripture ~ God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life.” Ezekiel 37:5
Spiritual Focus ~ “What oxygen is to the lungs; such is hope to the meaning of life.”
–Emil Brunner, a Swiss Reformed theologian, who along with Karl Barth, was associated with neo-orthodoxy and the dialectical theological movement
Breath Prayer ~ Hope Springs Eternal
Devotion ~ Do you remember these lyrics, “The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, the foot bone’s connected to the heel bone,” and so forth? These lyrics and their catchy tune are from an old spiritual written by James Weldon Johnson called “Dem Bones.” This spiritual is based on words of the prophet Ezekiel often known as dry bones. This prophecy has inspired not only this familiar song, but art, poetry and countless sermons that point to God’s power to breathe life into situations that seem hopeless.
No matter what we believe, think, or do, some situations just feel hopeless. When we don’t acknowledge this, we often dismiss the very real experience of depression. Hopelessness and depression can go hand in hand and often require every strategy available to bring back meaning to life. Today depression is more widely accepted, studied, and treated than in the past. May is national Mental Health Awareness month during which new treatments and strategies are highlighted. Most treatments for depression incorporate a variety of modalities that include medication, behavior modification, and support groups to name a few. But new to the treatment tool box, and now accepted by the medical community, are meditation and breathing techniques.
Many mental health professionals recommend a regular yoga practice as well, especially one that is focused on pranayama or breathing. The three most recommended pranayama techniques for treating depression are: balanced breath (equal inhale, equal exhale), three part or dirga breathing, and ujjayi pranayama, sometimes known as victorious or oceanic breath.
Ezekiel’s story of the dry bones intends the reader to hear that God’s words brought hope to those who felt like they were so far gone that no one and nothing could reach them. Those words of hope reach out to us today in our hopelessness and depression, coming from many different directions including breath. May we pause to listen and receive the breath of God that gives meaning to life.