Shema: A Breathing Meditation

Shema: A Breathing Meditation

Line drawing of female body seated cross-legged, with 7 chakras identified using colours of the rainbow, to illustrate a post called Shema: A Breathing Meditation.Shema. Listen.

Listen to your body as it breathes.

So I did one day. More carefully than usual.

First, I did some early morning Hatha Yoga. Sun salutations, triangle side bends, spinal twists. Pranayama, the breath of life.

Then, I sat down right where I was and whispered the morning Shema (Deut 6:4-9). 

In rhythm with my breath. Spontaneously, that’s how it sorted itself out.

Seven phrases, seven breaths.

Each time I breathed in, I reflected on a phrase.

Some phrases name a part of the body. So, for those, I felt my breath touch the body part. Expand it, stretch it, emphasize it. Keep its chakra energy spinning.

Other phrases talk about Spirit, about God. So, for those, I simply breathed and let Spirit fill me. Yes, Hebrew sometimes uses the same word for breath and spirit. Ruakh.

Then, after breathing a phrase in, I paused. With an expectant mind.

And, finally, I breathed out slowly. With a quiet, listening mind.

Then waited for the next phrase. It would tell me how to breathe. And the breath would tell me how to pay attention.

Like this:

(1) Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ekhad

Listen, Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One

SHEMA – LISTEN TO THE BREATH.

(2) Barukh Shem Kivod Malkhuto l’olam va’ed

Blessed be the the Name of the Glorious Kingdom forever and ever

LET THE BREATH FILL THE BODY WITH GLORY.

(3) V’ahavta et Adonai Elohekha bekhol livavkha u’v’khol nafshekha u’vekhol me’odekha

Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your might.

BREATHE INTO YOUR HEART, THROAT, AND THIRD EYE CHAKRAS.

(4) V’hayu hadevarim haeyleh asher anokhi mitzavkha hayom al levavekha, v’shinantam l’vanekha v’dibarta bam

Let these things that I instruct you today be on your heart, teach them to your children, and speak of them

AGAIN, BREATHE INTO YOUR HEART, THROAT, AND THIRD EYE CHAKRAS.

(5) B’shivtekha biveitekha u’vlekhtekha baderekh u’vshokhbekha u’vekumekha

As you sit at home, walk on your way, lie down, and wake up

BREATHE INTO YOUR ROOT CHAKRA, INTO YOUR ENTIRE SPINE, AND UP TOWARDS YOUR THIRD EYE.

(6) U’keshartam li’ot al yadekha, v’hayu litotafot beyn eyenekha

Tie them as a sign onto your hands; let them be amulets between your eyes

BREATHE FROM THE ROOT INTO YOUR SPINE AGAIN, ALLOW BREATH TO FLOW DOWN YOUR ARMS TO YOUR FINGERTIPS, AND FLOW UP TO YOUR THIRD EYE.

(7) U’khtavtam al mezuzot beitekha u’vi’she’areikha

Write them on the doorposts of your home and on your gates

BREATHE INTO YOUR WHOLE BODY, TO THE CROWN AND BEYOND, BECAUSE YOUR WHOLE BODY HAS BECOME A GATE.

You can try this, too. And feel into it. Your body, full of oxygen. Full of energy, ruach, spirit. Vibrating. Attentive. Awake. Unified.

Your body, with a message about spiritual living. As you sit, as you walk, as you lie down to end a day, your heart fills. You teach, you speak, your eye awakens. Your gate opens. Your hands extend.

You live, you learn, you teach, you grow, you act. 
Shema and v'ahavta mapped onto chakrasImage: Hebrew of the Shema correlated with chakras, by Laura Duhan-Kaplan, based on colourful line drawing found at dharmayoga.ca.

2 Comments
  1. Hello Laura, I cannot thank you enough for this morning meditation. I live with a chronic degenerative disease and have become quadriplegic in the last decade. I cannot move but I can breathe (with increasing difficulty), I can speak (With even more difficulty), I can listen, I can read, but I have no established practice of meditation or prayer. This called to me enormously and I will with intention see if I can practice this medication each morning. As I read your interpretation of the concluding phrases, it is a meditation for the morning that opens the heart and spirit so that it can be the compass point for my responses to everything that meets to me throughout the day until I go to sleep. Ruakh Is my favorite Hebrew word. I appreciate your work very much. Elizabeth

    1. Elizabeth, thank you for this beautiful note. Of course, if you experiment with this practice, it will speak to you in different ways and you will make it your own. All good wishes for health and fullness of life on every stage of the journey.

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