Nooma - Breathe - Transcript


Each day we take about 26,000 breaths, which is somewhere around 14,000 liters of air. And we should breathe from our stomach, not our chest. But when we’re distracted, when we’re stressed, when we’re moving too fast, we tend to breathe from our chest. We take somewhere between 4 and 6 breaths a minute. But most of us, on average, take between 16 and 20 breaths a minute. And experts say that from our breathing we should get 99% of our energy. And they say that most of us only access 10% to 20% of that energy. I mean, with all that all of us have going on every day, I mean, who actually thinks about their breathing?

Now there’s a story about a shepherd named Moses who’s living in a land called Midian. And God appears to him, speaking to him through a burning bush. And God says, “Moses, take off your sandals because the ground that you’re standing on is holy.” Now, Moses has been walking this land for 40 years. I mean, it isn’t as if the ground all of a sudden became holy. The ground didn’t just change. It’s Moses becomes aware of it; which raises the question for us: “Are we standing on holy ground all the time?” Passing burning bushes on the left and the right, and because we’re moving too fast and we’re distracted, we miss them. Now, God has heard the cry of his people who are in slavery in Egypt. And he wants Moses to go rescue them. And Moses says, “Well, if I go to these people, and I say to them that God wants to liberate them, they’re going to say to me: ‘Well, what is this God’s name?’” So Moses says to God, “What is your name?” And God responds, “Moses, you tell them the LORD sent you.”

Now, this name, LORD, if you’re reading it in an English translation of the Bible, the name is spelled capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D. The name appears in the bible over 6,000 times. But it wasn’t originally written in the English language. It was written in the Hebrew language. And in Hebrew, the name is essentially four letters. We would say Y, H, V, H. But in Hebrew, the letters are pronounced “Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey.” Now, some pronounce the name “Yahweh” or “Yahveh,” although in many traditions the name isn’t even pronounced because it’s considered so sacred, so mysterious, so holy. In fact, the ancient rabbis believed that these letters were actually—they function kind of as vowels in the Hebrew language. They believed that they were essentially kind of breathing sounds, and that ultimately the name is simply unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing. Yod. Hey. Vav. Hey. Is the name of God the sound of breathing?

Now, the book of Genesis says that when God created the first person, God took this dust; this dirt from the ground, and God shaped it and formed it and then breathed into it, and it became a living being. Now, the Hebrew word for “ground” is the word, “adamah,” and this first person, his name is Adam. And so essentially it’s from “adamah,” we get Adam. We pronounce the word “Adam.” From ground we get groundman, from dirt we get dirtman. There’s this paradox at the heart of what it means to be a human being. We’re fragile and vulnerable. We came from the dust. As it says in Ecclesiastes, all people come from the dust. As it’s written in the Psalms, all come from the dust and then die and return to the dust.

So the other day I’m trying to call someone, so I dial the number on my phone. The call won’t connect, and so I dial the number again, and it still won’t connect. Then my phone tells me I need to redial, and I’m getting more and more frustrated. And I catch myself literally about to throw my phone out the window. I mean, why is it that the strangest things can get under our skin so quickly? I mean, do you ever have moments when you feel like you’re seconds from losing it? We come from the dust. We’re fragile. Like it’s written in the Psalms: “Each person’s life is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” If you’ve ever walked the halls of a hospital, if you’ve ever stood over a casket, if you’ve ever driven by a bad car accident, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Life is fragile. And yet, at the same time, we’ve been breathed into by the Creator of the Universe. And this divine breath is in every single human being ever. Like it’s written in the Psalms, Psalm 8 says that has God has crowned us with glory and honor. Now, the glory and honor in this passage isn’t referring to God, it’s referring to the people God made. We’re these sacred, divine dirt clods, and yet we possess untold power and strength. Your life is but a breath, and yet you were made by the Creator of everything.

Now, for thousands of years, people have understood that this physical breath that we all possess is actually a picture of a deeper reality. In the bible, the word for breath is the same word as the word for Spirit. In the Hebrew language, it’s the word “ruah.” In the Greek language, it’s the word “pneuma.” One scripture says that when God takes away the ruah, the breath of all living creatures, then they die and return to the dust. But when God sends the ruah, the Spirit, they are created. Breath, spirit, same word. And the first Christians took hold of this idea; then they took it way farther. They actually believed that the Spirit of God resides or can literally dwell; live in a person. One scripture in Romans 8 says that if the pneuma, the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then God will give you life. Another scripture says that what the Spirit of God does, living in you, is it sanctifies.

Now the word “sanctify,” it means “to purge,” or to “clean out.” What essentially it means it that when you let God in, when you breathe, what happens is you become aware of all the things you need to leave behind, everything you need to let go of. If you were totally honest right now about what’s going on inside of you, what would we find out? What would you say if you just kind of opened it up? What’s inside? What are you angry about? What are you concerned for? What are you anxious for? What’s bothering you? What’s filling up your headspace? What’s stressing you? I mean, if we were to be totally honest about what’s going on inside of you, is there anything you need right now to breathe out? Jesus said that what the Spirit of God does, is the Spirit guides us into Truth. Is there anything you need guidance in? I mean, maybe what we need is as close as breathing. Another scripture says that God gives the Spirit without limit. Is there anything right now you need to breathe in?

As it says in Ephesians, Chapter 4, there is one God and Father of all, who’s over all and through all in all. As it says in Hebrews, Chapter 2, there’s God for whom and through whom everything exists. Or as Jesus said it, God is Spirit. And you are a sacred creation of God. The Divine Breath is flowing through you, and it’s flowing through the person next to you, and it’s flowing through the person next to them. You are on holy ground. And there is a holiness to the people around us. And how to treat them. Jesus said that whatever you do for them, you’ve done for Him. God is there because God is here. A person doesn’t have to agree with this for it to already be true. God has already given us life, and the breath we just took, and the breath we took before that, and the breath we’re gonna take, and the breath after that.

When a baby is born, what’s the first thing it must do, or this baby isn’t going to make it? Does this baby have to take a breath, or say the name of God? And what’s the last thing you do and then you die? The last thing we do is we take our last breath, or is it that when we can no longer say the name of God, we die? I mean, is it possible that you could be having a meal with a good friend of yours who doesn’t believe in God? And you could be sitting across the table from your friend who is saying: “There is no God,” and what you would be hearing is “Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey.”

May you come to see that God is here right now with us all the time. May you come to see that the ground that you are standing on is holy. And as you slow down, may you become aware that it’s in Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey that we live, and we move, and we breathe.


Transcribed by S.E. Poulin

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