Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Breath of Fresh Air

"Mystic Moonlight"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Yesterday I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night- this rarely happens to me, I usually sleep the night away. As I lay in bed trying to figure out what it was that roused me from a sound sleep, I realized that a bright full moon was shining just outside my window bathing me in its midnight rays. I also realized that a wonderfully refreshing breath of cool fresh air was gently blowing over me through my open window. We are at the cusp of springtime out here in the desert, and I wondered if I was breathing in those first breaths of spring?

As I lay awake in bed last night, I basked in the brightness of the mystic moonlight and deeply breathed in and breathed out that refreshing spring-like air. I was keenly aware that I was intimately connected to an energy far greater than my own tiny little self. I felt as if I belonged to the universe - to everything and everyone in it. As I lay wide awake in my bed I was breathing in “God” and breathing out into “God.”

A few months ago our local NPR station featured a Ted Talk that has really stuck with me. The program featured a series of lectures by various scientists who talked about the ecology of the natural world - how all things, all creatures, all people are dynamically interconnected into one living breathing organism.

One particular segment of the program especially struck me as a biologist talked about the air we breathe:

Take a deep breath, the yogis had it right.
Breath does indeed connect us in a very literal way.
Take a breath and as you breathe in, think about what is in your breath.
There, perhaps, is the carbon from the person sitting next to you,
Maybe there’s a little bit of algae from some nearby lake, river or beach.
There may even be some carbon in your breath from ancient dinosaurs,
and there could also be carbon that you are exhaling
that will be in the breath of your great great grandchildren
The air we breathe connects us all the time

When many people use the word “God” they often think of a “man” who lives up in some distant place - a king, a judge or a ruler; but in fact if you examine the images in many of the scriptures and teachings of most of the world religions, a common way of imaging God is: the air we breath.  

In the Christian tradition, after his resurrection, Jesus appears among his disciples as a Holy Spirit, the “Living Christ” is depicted as a powerful wind blowing through the room where the disciples are gathered together. In the Hebrew tradition, “God” is often referred to Ruah: a breath of air, a holy wind, sometimes mighty, sometimes gentle. Similarly, a Navajo word for “God’ is Holy Wind: “the breath of creation that pervades the cosmos,” and over the ages, Buddhists have concentrated on awareness of one’s breath as a means of being grounded in and connected to the greater universe.

Last night, bathed in the midnight moon, breathing in and breathing out, I was literally breathing in “God” and breathing back out into “God.”  I was breathing in all that ever was, breathing in everything that is, and breathing back into all that ever yet will be. Imagine that: “God” is as intimate to me and you as the very air we breathe.

I am reminded of something the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, once wrote:

Whoever breathes the most air lives the most life.

Spring is in the air out here in the desert, I can feel it in every breath I take. I’m going to spend the day trying to take some very deep breaths so that I can live the most life.

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