The original Hebrew name for God in the Old Testament is “YHWH” and is believed to come from the sound of breathing. The Israelites were not allowed to speak this holy name. When asked for His identity, God cryptically responded “I am who I am”.
What this all means is that God is not meant to be named, God is meant to be experienced. A name means you can pin someone down and link a concept about the person to a tag. God’s intention with mankind is not to be studied like a subject at school so that those who complete their studies can claim to “know” Him, dissect Him and argue amongst each other about what He’s like. God’s purpose and pleasure with humankind is to be experienced, and in turn to “know” them in by intimate experience.
A conceptual knowledge of God can be a start towards the experience of God, but if it is an end in itself, then it is dead religion. Christ was called, “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us” because that is what God is – present, living and loving – someone to experience and know at a deep level of the heart.
You can conceptualize a name, but breathing is something you experience. The sacred name YHWH shows that the first action of a newborn baby is to experience God – a breath in – and the last act of a dying man, is to call on God with a final breath out.
God is everywhere like the air surrounding our skin and He nurtures us with spiritual life when we experience Him, when we “breathe Him in”. This is what being “filled with the Holy Spirit” means and its what Jesus pointed at when, as His first post-resurrection act, He breathed on His disciples and said, “be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The great thing about breathing is that it depends on the vast abundant source of oxygen surrounding us; like the vast expanse of God that is everywhere, but is at the same time touching our lips, waiting for them to open, and for us to breathe Him in.
This is what we do in centering prayer and it is easy because God is all around us, and like the breath in our lungs, already within us.
To learn the foundations of centering prayer, watch, listen to or read our 8 session introductory course.