Defining one's self is rough. Knowing who I am and being comfortable with that guy has been a lifelong work it seems. I've moved from identity being defined by others to self-definition all the way to being defined by God. This is rough work. And it doesn't help when identity get's bruised by the occasional lady clutter her purse in the fear I might snatch it or when you see the constant barrage of negative images in the media of people clothed in my color of skin. Being stopped by police officers for merely driving while black is real and does real damage to the identity defining of those being stopped and frisked.

I'm in loved with my dark skinned self don't get me wrong. I wouldn't trade this journey God has set me on as an African American man for the world. The wisdom gained and divine encounters I've had and the deep laughter made richer from the saltiness of tears make the journey well worth taking. All I'm saying is everyone's journey of self discovery comes at a cost and the travel scars are sometimes as long as they are deep. But meditation has helped me so much!

One of the practices that have been with me for several years is my Breath Prayer. It is just something about combining your inhaling and exhaling with words or phrases of affirmation or entreaty to God. It's powerful! It's almost as if every inhalation and exhalation a little bit at a time is chipping away at all the impact years of negative self perception has caused. Every breath becomes a means of rejecting the false self and accepting the "you" that is real, right and true. And gradually the inner voices that say, "You can't", "It will never work", and "You are the worst", are drowned out by a soundtrack of your own choosing.

"I am my Beloved and my Beloved is mine" is the breath prayer that found me. I breathe it in and out as well worn prayer beads move from forefinger and thumb. Over and over I draw each word in from my nose to my chest and out through my mouth. These words from the Song of Solomon keep watch with me. They help me focus my attention and keep me rooted in the presence of God. These words are what I say as God and I keep time together. I don't know if it really does anything more than that as I breathe. These aren't magic words. There is no real power in these words beyond the richness of the sentiment they hold. But something has happened to me in these 6 or 7 years I've breathed these words. I've started to remember with greater frequency that I am to function as the beloved of God. I think about loving and being loved more often. And those things that attempt to compromise the joy of being who God has designed me to be loses greater power with every breath I breathe.