Please welcome my new friend Alexandra Kuykendall to the blog today! Alex’s new book shares a message we all can use: Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me.
Isn’t the cover lovely?
I’m excited to share an excerpt from the book and give away copies to two lucky readers. Leave a comment on this post for your chance to win!
Searching For Quiet and Finding Breath Prayer
It’s Sunday again and there we were, all six of us, ending our quiet Sabbath watching 60 Minutes. Doing our part to bring the average age of viewership down a notch. The Broncos game had just ended and we were too relaxed to turn off the TV. We went right into Anderson Cooper with these words: “Our lives are filled with distractions—email, Twitter, texting, we’re constantly connected to technology, rarely alone with just our thoughts. Which is probably why there’s a growing movement in America to train people to get around the stresses of daily life.”
He went on to tell us that the movement sweeping the nation is “mindfulness.” As they showed a retreat where Silicon Valley execs turned in their cell phones and devices for a weekend of quiet, my family all turned and looked at me.
“Mom! That’s just like you!” Except I’m not at a retreat and I don’t make a gazillion dollars a year for being our family executive. But in some ways, it was like me.
Anderson interviewed John Kabat-Zinn, a longtime practitioner of mindfulness, who explained staying present in the moment, or mindful, can start by focusing on the sensation of breathing in and out. As my family and I lay sprawled on our sofas in front of our TV, we watched people eating together, but in silence, so they could fully taste their food, and sitting legs crossed to focus on their breathing so they could fully focus on the space they occupied. It started to feel a little wackadoodle.
Derek’s focus shifted from the screen to me, his eyebrows raised.
“What do you think?”
“I don’t think it’s that different from what people have been doing for a long time. It sounds like meditation to me.”
I woke up thinking about meditation. Not something I’ve ever really practiced, but I know Christians have for centuries. So I dug out my Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun—a book my church gave us a few years ago and I’ve had good intentions of reading, but you know the whole over-busy life. As I looked through the table of contents, I found “Breath Prayer,” a chapter about a simple prayer structure that follows our breathing pattern. We pray a name of God as we inhale and a desire of our heart as we exhale.
This short repetitive prayer frees you from linear thought and allows you to begin to pray in your body, not just your mind. It is meant to be a lived, breathing rhythm of surrender. And it is a constant reminder of the One in whose presence you stand. (Calhoun, )
Okay, when put that way it did sound a lot like mindfulness, but with a focus on God. And I was right about people doing it for a long time. Calhoun says the church, especially the Eastern Orthodox arm, has beenpracticing breath prayer for “millennia” to live out the command to “pray without ceasing.”5
I tried it. Breathe in. Lord Jesus. Breathe out. Have mercy on me. There was so much more I wanted to say, so I could check prayer off my to-do list and move on to the next urgent matter. Breathe in. Lord Jesus. Breathe out. Have mercy on me.
Even my prayers are noisy, rushed, filled with everything I need to say to God in as efficient a way as possible. And I rarely sit in quiet. Sit. Quiet. Breathe in. Lord Jesus. Breathe out. Have mercy on me.
This is an excerpt from Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me (Baker Books 2016)
About Alexandra Kuykendall
Alexandra Kuykendall spends her days washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. All while trying to sneak in chunks of time to work on various writing projects. She is the author of The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir and Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me. Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband Derek and their four daughters. Connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.
Win One of Two Giveaway Copies!
Leave a comment to win one of two copies of Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me. What was the last book you read?