The Breath of Life

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep and God's spirit hovered over the water” (Gn 1,1). The Book of Genesis, Hebrew and Christian scripture describes a moment when chaos transformed into cosmos, disorder into order. The Hebrew word Ruah means breath, air, wind. It is an attempt to express that Spirit that hovered over the earth. Jesus used a similar sensory image of the wind to often to evoke a transcendent, divine Spirit. This spirit in other practices, breath is experienced as rhythm, as presence or inner eye, looking inward. Pneuma in Greek, prana in the Sanskrit- Shekinah in Arabic- words, inadequate to capture the mystery between life and not life, spirit the miracle of self and love for others.

Twenty-seven centuries ago, the philosopher Lao-tzu pointed out that while we join beams to make houses and mold clay into pots, the empty spaces inside are where we live and store our treasures. It is the emptiness we need to contain our lives. When our days are too full to spend time with emptiness, we tend to forget it altogether. Our lives become an exhausting sprint with no finish line, no real purpose, and no way to win.

A packed schedule seems to have become a status symbol- the busier we are, the more important we are- or successful. People are not valued for being- they are valued for doing, accomplishing- producing. Filling every moment with “value-added” activities is a sign of virtue and significance.

For many, empty is scary- without the rush from one thing to another, space reveals one’s demons—grief, rage, anxiety, guilt, regret all the unprocessed psychological pain that one single, empty breathe can release. How often do we fill our time to the edges keep the demons at bay?

Notice, appreciate if you have had these feelings in the last week- month- year- how often? Daily, hourly?

Irritability, feeling “frayed” Boredom Feeling alone, unable to connect even when in the company of others, Being wound tight- unable to soften, feel centered or full- either at the end of the day or even on vacation- at night or on vacation. A continuous sense of not being, having, or doing enough

If You Have One Minute…

Go limp. Settle into the most comfortable position possible. Inhale deeply, hold your breath a second or two to feel the fullness of your expanded chest- holding your heart secure, then exhale slowly, relax your body — especially the muscles in your face — and release your heart, retain the feeling of fullness as you empty. Become aware of any physical sensation you’re feeling. Your body will repay the gift of oxygen and relaxation by becoming calmer and more energetic.

If You Have Five Minutes…

Forget everything. Jot down a quick to-do list, and let it be your “task memory” so you can let your mind roam free, like a toddler exploring a room. Patiently and non-judgmentally, watch where you mind goes, what it says. Then go back to your to-do list. You’ll find that you feel as if you’ve had a brief but refreshing vacation.

If You Have An Hour…

Find a reason to laugh. Read a funny book; call your silliest friend. If you’re too stressed or sad to laugh, let yourself cry. Both behaviors release physical and emotional tension, connecting your mind, body, and circumstances. Laughter, in particular, has been shown to improve immune function, strengthen relationships, and brighten your mood in almost any situation.

If You Have A Free Afternoon…

Disappear. Don’t call on the people you “should” visit. Don’t do the cleaning project that would make you the perfect homemaker. There will be time later for doing; this afternoon is for being. Roam your favorite places: shops, libraries, parks, country roads. Drink in all the beauty you find. Tell no one.

If You Have A Whole Day…

Live it on purpose. Start by reminding yourself what you want your life to mean. Take one small step in the service of your purpose. Then give yourself a gift (a wind chime, a lipstick, a dance to your favorite song). This will remind you that receiving and giving are inseparable and put you in the zone where you simultaneously forget your ego and remember who you really are.

Take yourself to the edge of your life as often as you can- breathe and notice that you are breathing, in and out. It really is that simple. Take a minute or a day to add value, serenity and compassion to your life- Each breath consciously drawn will strengthen your presence, your ability to hold the bitter and the sweet, and inspire your to experience the joy that is always present- the compassion that is waiting to lead us forward. With your eye s turned to your inner world, the good, the worthy, will manifest hope in the world around you.

Benediction

Breathe.
Fill your body and soul with persistent strength;
Enliven your spirit and engage deeply in this life of yours,
This sacred essential moment now.