Breathing: A Simple Prayer

Breathing is the simplest prayer taught to me by a 5 year old.

As a 5 year old I remember standing in my bedroom and singing “He’s got the whole world in His hands…” (some of you know the song I’m talking about) adding gestures and movement to every phrase as I passionately belted out the words. I remember thinking about how God might even have me in His hands and my little child’s mind said ‘wow’ as I became enthralled with that mystery.

Later that night laying in bed by myself, somehow I knew I wasn’t really alone. I actually remember becoming aware of my breathing. I felt fearful at first but with my eyes closed I breathed slowly in and out…the fear dissipated into calm and after a time (who knows how long for to a child even 5 minutes feels like forever) I fell asleep. Looking back on that now I believe the Spirit of God reached into that little child and taught her how to pray.

Several decades of living have gone by so quickly and here I am. I awaken in the middle of the night with a number of serious issues on my mind. Singing “He’s got the whole world in His hands” is quite far removed and is certainly not part of the ramblings in my head. Finally I realize all the worrying disguised as ‘thinking things through’ will not impact anything except my lack of sleep. I try to pray but the words sound like noisy chatter echoing back at me.

The dark stillness of the night reminds me I am by myself…but I am not alone. The silent word ‘yes’ rises out of my breath and I remember…simply breathe. As I breathe in I fill my lungs…my mind…my heart with the ‘yes of God’…as I breathe out I release all that is not ‘yes’ within me…all that is burdening me…all that is fear…I breathe in life and I remember the prayer God brought me to when I was too young and innocent to doubt and analyze…consciously breathing…true prayer connecting me with the Presence…and the peace which surpasses all understanding and all circumstances fills my heart and mind.


Who is Maria?


Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube


Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.

The Light in Darkness

In my darkest hour…there was Light…

There was nothing easy about going through a divorce. The guilt, shame and darkness was debilitating. Just as overwhelming were the insidious temptations to comfort and appease my pain with the immediate gratifications readily provided by the world.

When I gave up the self-defensive, victim posturing I was left to face my immense shame alone. That was when it happened.

One afternoon I could not move from my bed. My heart was heavy and I felt paralyzed by the darkness. I could not move a muscle. Breathing became difficult as the heaviness bore down on me. It felt like I was suffocating in my shame. The only movement was that of the racing and pounding in my chest. I could not speak. I could not justify or defend. I could not retreat into the Silence.
I could not even cry out for help. I could barely think. Nothing made sense.

Though I felt like God was far from me I managed to allow my mind say the name of Jesus. I have been saying the name of Jesus as my ‘prayer word’ since I was a small child. Now, it was all I could muster up. I was too weary to speak but I let my mind repeat ‘Jesus’ just as that frightened little girl did decades ago. I cannot say that I saw a blinding Light pierce through my darkness, nor can I say I felt any semblance of peace. What I was able to do was breathe that was all. As I breathed in and out and in and out the miracle took place.

In one brief moment I let go of my ‘white knuckle grip’ on my reality and God wasted no time revealing quite a different Reality. I became conscious of Christ. I couldn’t see or hear anything different but I could feel the Presence supporting and sustaining each breath holding my heart and soul. The anxiety and shame did not spontaneously dissipate. The miracle is that this loving, conscious Presence was right there in the midst of the debilitating feelings, thoughts and pain. Christ was present precisely in my woundedness, my darkest, most self-incriminating hour. Christ came as the Presence of no judgment, no condemnation and unconditional love. ‘How could this be?’, I thought. I remained there. I have no idea how long. After a while the freedom from this truth of ‘no condemnation’ started settling into me and the heaviness began to lift.

That is how I knew it was not my own mind or ego but the Reality of God breaking through. I could not create this feeling of freedom for I never felt it before in my life. I had no idea it even existed and therefore had no frame of reference. The miracle was organically experiencing the meaning of the words, ‘for there is no condemnation…I did not come to condemn…but to free you…who is here to judge you?’.
(John 8:7)

I experience that freedom to this day.


Who is Maria?


Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube


Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.

What is Contemplative Worship?

During these times of pressure, draining schedules, 24/7 fear inducing news, demanding responsibilities, and critical decisions our hearts and souls long for refreshment and peace that only comes from a deep connection with God. We desire a communal setting for worship that will soothe our over stimulated, over ‘agenda-ed’ minds. We may find such spiritual refreshment in worship which is reflective and contemplative.

Contemplative Worship is a setting in which we quiet ourselves in order to open our hearts, minds and souls to the ministry and Presence of God within us. It is one way to hear the gentle voiceless Voice of God with our hearts. Contemplative Worship waits for the Divine Mystery in the silence, words and music.

Contemplative Worship is an opportunity to still the internal busyness, allowing us to settle deeply into our spiritual center. Contemplative Worship practices us in the rhythm of Christ, a rhythm of moving into prayer and communion with God before going out to engage the world in our work and relationships.

Contemplative Worship does not imply that a person must be proficient in a certain skill or spiritual discipline to participate. It simply implies a desire to seek God and to be open to however God might choose to move within our lives.

Contemplation implies inner awakening to the Light and Presence that fills our being and is present in the world around us. The aim of Contemplative Worship is to draw us into that Light and Presence of God bringing about a deeper awareness of this intimate, healing Love.


Who is Maria?


Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube


Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.

What Is Spiritual Direction?

Does your life ever feel unmanageable or that you’re barely holding on? Perhaps all is well, yet you feel like something is missing. Do you wonder does God really hear you? Does prayer even matter? Do you ever feel like you’re living someone else’s life and not the one you desire to live? Have you felt the need to go deeper into your inner life with God? Perhaps you have way more questions than answers. Spiritual Direction is the oldest form of talk therapy (though it is not therapy) having it’s roots in Judeo-Christian history. In centuries past one might have gone to their rabbi, priest, wise neighbor or friend to help with life and all it’s challenges and transitions from the perspective of one’s connection to God and the spiritual journey. Now spiritual direction is a professional practice for individuals and groups that is becoming more widespread and sought after.

What Does the Practice Provide?

Spiritual Direction provides a supportive, non-judgmental, confidential place to share and understand your personal story, recognizing the Divine Presence in and through all of life. Spiritual direction invites you to a deeper connection, recognition and understanding of God, self and others that helps bring about authentic living through healing, growth and transformation.

Why Do People Come to Spiritual Direction?

For many reasons… some are:

  • For a more personal and authentic connection with God
  • For renewed or deeper understanding of the spiritual journey
  • For support and guidance through divorce, grieving of loss or other life transitions
  • For support in overcoming addictions
  • For authentic healing and transformation
  • To discern one’s call or purpose in life
  • To be able to recognize and live out of one’s True Self

What are the Benefits of Spiritual Direction?

  • Peace in the midst of all of life, including the chaos
  • Release from judgment of self and others
  • Freedom from addictions
  • A full, engaged, more abundant life
  • Happiness and acceptance
  • Clarity of thought and insight
  • Greater love of self and others
  • Reduction of stress and release of anger
  • Emotional and spiritual healing and transformation

Find out how Spiritual Direction can serve you. Book your free discovery call with Maria today. You’ll be so glad you did.


Who is Maria?


Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a work and community dedicated to helping individuals go from anxiety, stress and loneliness to inner peace and freedom, through experiencing a deeper connection with God, self and others. Maria has her graduate degree from Neumann University in Pastoral Care and Counseling and Spiritual Direction. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of Christ through contemplative Christian spirituality; teaching centering prayer, leading retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube


Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.

St. Francis Prayer

It’s the week before Thanksgiving and the first thing I want to say is… thank you. I want to share my gratefulness for you being there, for you being part of The Deeper Connection community, for you praying with me wherever you are in the world. I am truly grateful to be connecting with you,

But sometimes gratitude doesn’t rise that easily, does it? Sometimes it feels like there’s something blocking our gratitude. Maybe it’s quite obvious to us, it could be a trauma or a crisis or an illness of a loved one or maybe something’s not going well at work, whatever it might be.

Perhaps life is going along quite simply and calmly and we do feel that gratitude more readily. Whatever it is, it’s okay. It’s all okay, because whatever and whenever you don’t feel that gratitude, you can ask for it. Simply ask God. “You know what? I”m not feeling grateful right now, but I would truly like to… I would like to receive that from you.” Ask for it and God, who has created this benevolent universe for you, will pour out gratitude into your heart.

Sometimes it’s a matter of just looking at the small things. Maybe the big things are not going well, but perhaps it’s the small things that we so take for granted… even just having food in our refrigerator, or hot running water… or heat… or that we can get up and stand up on both feet and walk… or that you can watch me right now, we can hear our friends, we can hear the cries of our grandchildren. Whatever the simplest thing is, sometimes just settling on that and just recognizing that and receiving that is enough.

So today, I’d like to pray with you and I’d like to pray a prayer I adapted called the Prayer of St. Francis, and I would like to share it with you if you would pray it with me, wherever you are. I don’t have it memorized so I’m going to read it, but if you would just open up your hearts and minds. I always say that’s the foundation of prayer because it is. It’s not so much our words, but the positioning of our hearts.

So just be wherever we are. Let your presence be in the presence of a living God.

Breathe a nice, deep cleansing breath. Close your eyes. Just feel yourself in this space and let us share these words together:

My God, Source of Life. Source of Love. May I be your messenger in a world that is in desperate need of you. May I be an instrument of your peace in a world filled with division and discord. May I bring love in the midst of anger and hatred and may I bring compassion and understanding where there is hurt and suffering. Where there is doubt and fear, cause my faith to rise up. Where there is despair, may I be a voice of hope. In darkness, may I bring light and in sadness, may I bring joy. Divine Master, rather than seek my own comfort and consolation, may I show mercy and be a comfort to others. Rather than needing to be heard, rather than needing to be right, may I bring patience, understanding and a willingness to listen. Rather than seeking to be loved, may I be love. I know that all I desire is already provided for me and that it is in giving, that we receive. In forgiving, that we are set free. And in dying to self, that we are born into our true, eternal life.

Let it be so. Let it be now. Let it be.

Amen.

Listen to more meditations like this.


Who is Maria?


Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube


Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.

My Agnostic Prayer Buddy

A couple of months ago I was beginning my weekly Contemplative Prayer Gathering.  We always begin in silence with gentle music playing in a candle-lit room. One person after another entered the room, each finding a seat in the circle of chairs.  Most times I sit with my eyes closed holding the silence as others enter.  On this particular night, when I heard the door open, I happened to raise my eyes and there was my dear old prayer buddy, John, entering the room. I hadn’t seen him in almost two years.

I had met John about eleven years ago when I started teaching centering prayer workshops and holding meditation/prayer meetings at a local twelve step recovery counseling center.  Serving in this place was a highlight in my life. John came to almost all my meetings.  He was quickly known and loved by everyone for his soul-searching, sometimes challenging, but always truth-seeking attitude, dry wit and gentle smile. As a mainstay in our ‘band of meditators’ for over seven years, I could always rely on John to bring his authentic self to the table, willingly participating in thought-provoking discussions.

I also had a Spiritual Direction practice at the center.  Curious to find out what Spiritual Direction was, John decided to book an appointment. I remember his first session as if it was just last week. He wasn’t sure if Spiritual Direction was for him, announcing he was agnostic. I admit to being a little confused, maybe even intimidated as he shared his well-defined reasoning; but I also sensed a deeper struggle that he never really spoke about. It could have been any number of things that I don’t want to guess, but what I do know is that his desire for spiritual truth always took precedence.  As the years went on John remained an integral influence in my meetings and work. He was a quiet, introverted, hard-working, middle-aged, ‘still waters run deep’ kind of guy. When he spoke, everyone listened.

It may have been a different venue, different time and place but here we were once again connecting through our common desire for spiritual depth, prayer and community.  The night before, I sent out an email to my group list, the first in a couple of years.  John received the email and responded by showing up as he always did with that same gentle smile and warm presence. For a split second I wondered if this meeting format would be to his liking but quickly dismissed the thought with gratitude.

Once again his contribution to the prayer, reflection and discussion time was profound, only this time he was different. There was a sense of peace and acceptance about him.  He was also quite connected to the scripture that evening which happened to be the story of when Jesus visited the sisters Mary and Martha. The one where Mary ‘chose the better part’ by being content to sit at Jesus feet, hanging on his every word. It felt to me like that’s what John was doing… choosing the ‘better part’ this time with no reservation. After the meeting I couldn’t wait to give him a big hug and let him know how happy I was to see him. I did exactly that and he assured me he’d definitely be back.

 Two meetings went by and I was disappointed John didn’t return.  The next day I received word from Marianne, his girlfriend, informing me that John had woken up on Monday morning feeling the same as usual, however that afternoon he began having trouble breathing. He called the ambulance and later that day passed away from a massive coronary.  My heart sank with sadness.

 It was a small, understated funeral, as I’m sure John would have wanted. Walking toward the casket I first greeted Marianne.  As we embraced, she expressed her gratitude toward me and once again my heart felt heavy with sadness.  As I greeted each of John’s siblings, I could see the faraway look on their faces as they wrestled with this difficult, new reality.

 “Hi, I’m Maria, a friend of John’s.”

 “How did you know John?” his brother asked.

 “He came to my prayer meetings.”

 “He what?” responded his sister.

 When I shared he had come to my prayer gatherings for many years, they both looked intently at me. I explained how and where we met and how important John’s presence was to our group.   I told them he had just come two weeks ago. As I spoke, I could tell by the looks on their faces that none of his family members knew this part of John.

 “Did you notice anything different about him? Do you think he knew?” his brother asked.

 I understood what he was asking me. Did I think John might have had some type of premonition that his life was ending soon? I explained how I had noticed a change in John, a sense of peace that had never been there before, and that while I couldn’t remember his exact words, I did distinctly remember feeling John had found his God.

 I could see sweet relief in his brother’s sad eyes and I immediately understood why I was there. They needed to know about that part of John, the relentless seeker of truth, who wasn’t going to stop seeking until his soul was at peace.

 I took my seat amongst his old friends, bowling buddies and work colleagues. The priest stood by John, saying a blessing over him.  He then turned and addressed all of us seated in attendance by sharing the story of Mary and Martha.

 In that moment I had a profound sense that John now knew what we are all still seeking.  He chose the ‘better part’ for good this time and as Jesus said in the story, “It shall never be taken away.”


Who is Maria?


Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube


Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.

3 Easy Peace-y Simple Spiritual Practices You Can Do Before Getting Out of Bed in the Morning

Spirituality has gained much popularity these days. There are almost as many yoga studios as there are churches… nearly one on every corner in suburban America.  More books on spirituality are sold every year and spiritual teachers are highly sought after.  While I certainly believe studying and listening to wise teaching is an important pursuit, true spiritual development and authentic transformation might be a lot simpler than one might realize. Hours spent in meditation, prayer, doing yoga, listening to podcasts, or reading books or blogs on spirituality are time well spent; and yet, what you do during those precious moments before your feet hit the floor and you begin your day are perhaps the most crucial moments of your spiritual journey.  Yes, those moments even before you open your eyes.  Those moments before your mind starts hijacking your thoughts.

Now it might take a small measure of discipline because simple isn’t always easy, but these spiritual practices can go a long way toward changing the course your day. for the better, maybe even your life.

  1.  “I AM GRATEFUL”

Let the first words you think and say be, ‘I am grateful’.  Let the words ride on your breath: ’I am’ as you inhale, ‘grateful’ as you exhale.  Let them rest in your mind and reside in your heart.  You need not list what you’re grateful for… the details for this practice are irrelevant.  Let the words sink in until the mantra, ‘I am grateful’ is begins to settle into your being.  Whether you feel grateful or not as you begin this practice, is unimportant.  Like iIn the words of Nike ‘Just do it’ will eventually allow you to ‘Just be it’.

  1.  WELCOME THE SILENCE

“What?  Didn’t I just spend hours being silent by sleeping?”  I’m talking about a different kind of silence… a deeper Silence, with a capital S. Go inward and with a warm, gentle glance at your soul say “Welcome… I welcome you into this place where you already are.”  Listen to the sounds around you – outside your window, in the next room – and let them fade as you continue to welcome in the Silence even deeper.  Let your welcome be like a pebble you throw into a lake and watch as it slowly drops to the bottom.  Keep the Silence and hold it tenderly.  Even as you get out of bed, move with the Silence as you start your morning routine.  Take time before speaking out loud.  If you live alone this is a no brainer, but if you live with others this could be challenging. The biggest challenge is not the children calling or the dog needing to go out. The most difficult thing is to turn nothing on. No TV. No computer. No phone. No artificial noise.  Go about your morning with a backdrop of Silence.  For some, that might be easy. For others, whose brains are conditioned to being greeted by the Today Show, not so much.  I’m not saying to never turn anything on. ‘Never’ is ‘never allowed’.  I’m simply saying that when we ‘Welcome in the Silence’ upon waking, we are already giving our brains a break, our bodies time to ease into the day and our soul preferential treatment as it creates space for the Presence of God.

  1.  SMILE

“Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking.  When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.  If you smile through your fear and sorrow, smile and maybe tomorrow, you’ll see the sun come shining through for you.”

Charlie Chaplin, when he wrote that song, had it right. Have you ever recognized how spiritual a smile can be? Just try it. Smile. Right now as you’re reading this. Come on. You can do it.  Not that fake little curl your lips, smile. I mean a true, life is real and beautiful and I’m alive to feel it smile. Now you’re getting the idea. Smile at yourself in the mirror, at everyone you see. Smile as you notice your breath and hear your mind say ‘I am grateful’. Smiling literally gives the brain a message to be happy regardless of the circumstances. If you want to be happier today. If you want to live out your spirituality in a real way, then smile. Regardless of your circumstances, again, the details are unimportant, simply smile.  Remember, you’re just waking up and you can choose the way your journey goes. “Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking.  When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.  If you smile through your fear and sorrow, smile and maybe tomorrow, you’ll see the sun come shining through for you.”

Intention is like developing spiritual muscle, the more you consciously use it the stronger it gets.  These three simple spiritual practices take no effort or muscle, just intention.  They can be done simultaneously and you can do them throughout the day.  The goal is not to add one more thing to your already overflowing ‘to do’ list.  The goal is to help simplify your ‘to be’ list.

Let it be!


Who is Maria?


Maria Gullo is the founder of The Deeper Connection, a ministry dedicated to bringing individuals to inner peace. She is an ordained minister and has spent the past twenty-plus years delivering the message of contemplative Christian spirituality through centering prayer, retreats, workshops, and lectures. Maria’s guided prayer and meditation tools include audio downloads and CDs, available here online as well as on the Insight Timer mobile meditation app. Learn more about Maria.

Maria offers virtual online and private one-on-one Spiritual Direction sessions to help individuals develop a deeper connection, clearer understanding and authentic relationship with God, self and others.

Follow The Deeper Connection @deeperconnects on Twitter, and @thedeeperconnection on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube


Maria wants to hear from you! Tell your story or where you are in your journey.