My next virtual retreat Rhythms and Seasons is less than 2 weeks away and this week I plan to have some fun preparing for it. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to think back over the last few years and ask myself “What sets the rhythms for my life?” “Why do I think it is important to take notice of rhythms and seasons?
In preparation I am rereading John O’Donohue’s The Four Elements and am delighting in his fresh approach to life and faith. In one of the blessings In Praise of Air, which he wrote not long before he died, he says:
In the name of the air,
And the wind,
May our souls
Stay in rhythm
With eternal Breath.
That’s it I feel – staying in rhythm with eternal breath is what this is all about. God has rhythm and we need it too. This blessing inspired my prayer above and still often forms the focus for my morning reflections. Now it is once more at the centre of my planning for the retreat which will feature breath prayers and explore the rhythms that I believe God intends for us.
What does it mean to live in rhythm with Eternal Breath?
I have always loved writing and using breathing prayers, even more so since I listened to Richard Rohr talk about the name of God being breathed rather than spoken. The Eternal breath enters our bodies every time we breathe in. And every time we breathe out it is expelled into the world to show love and generosity and compassion. The breath of God sustains us, yet we rarely acknowledge or live in the awareness of it. We are often unaware of our physical breath too unless it is interrupted by allergies, pollution or illness.
Becoming aware of our breathing can have a huge impact on our lives. Doctors recommend that we deliberately take deep breaths at regular intervals throughout the day to aerate our lungs. It relieves tension, rids our body of toxins, boosts our energy and strengthens our immune systems. Unfortunately as we get older, our breathing tends to become shallower and taking those deep breaths that draw air into every part of our lungs doesn’t happen by accident. It needs to be intentionally planned. The deep breathing in and out of God’s breath, God’s spirit needs to be intentional too.
It requires intentionality.
As any experienced hiker or runner knows, we move more easily when we synchronize our steps to our breathing. Again this is often a deliberate action, especially when we are just learning to pace ourselves. We consciously take our steps in rhythm with our breaths. Living in synch with the Eternal Breath is just as intentional. We must regularly remind ourselves to breathe deeply of the presence of God, to absorb divine love and God’s passion for justice and that means we need to learn to pace ourselves. That means pausing from busy lives, centering ourselves on the eternal presence and attending to the rhythm of our breathing.
Question: How much attention do you give your spiritual breathing? What do you do on a regular basis to make sure it is in synch with the Eternal Breath?
It means slowing down.
When we walk up a hill we know how out of condition we are if our breathing comes in short, painful gasps. Healthy hill climbing breathing is slow and regular.
I wonder at the spiritual analogy here. There is a tendency for us grab for God when we are on an uphill climb, facing pressures, challenges and anxieties in our life and faith. Unless we have been doing regular spiritual exercises, keeping our breath in synch with the Eternal Breath we find ourselves unprepared, gasping for the holy air that seems thinner and less life giving than it should be. We know we are in synch with the Eternal Breath when we are able to breathe in and out of the presence of God at all times, with long, slow breaths that relax and nourish us deep within our souls.
Question: How healthy is your spiritual breathing? Think back to the last life stress you faced. What was the rhythm of your spiritual breathing like during that time?
It requires deep breathing exercises.
As I mentioned above, as we grow older we breathe more shallowly and need to learn to consciously take deep breaths that fully aerate our lungs and provide the health benefits that only deep breathing can.
I wonder if our spiritual lives follow the same pattern. The longer we follow Christ, the easier it is for us to take our spiritual practices for granted. They become stale, rote, unproductive of the spiritual depths that connect to the heart of God and not surprisingly we often distance ourselves from the One who gives us life. We need to to breathe deeply, inhaling the words of God and the ways of God, delighting in the fulness of God’s presence within us and in the world around us in order to replenish our inner resources and renew our spirits.
As you know, over the summer Tom and I went away for one of our regular prayer retreats, one of those wonderful breaks from routine that often remind me to breathe deeply with passion and joy, again. The whole retreat was like a powerful deep breathing tool that helped restore our relationship and intimacy with God. These retreats often encourage us to restructure our lives and keep on focus with both our physical and spiritual disciplines.
Question: What are the deep breathing exercises your perform regularly to strengthen your spiritual muscles and maintain your life rhythm in synch with the Eternal Breath?
Listen to this beautiful poem by John O’Donohue. Allow it to enter your spirit and fill you with the Eternal Breath. What might God be prompting you to do in order for you to inhale more deeply of the Eternal breath.
Please consider joining me for Rhythms and Seasons on September 2nd or sign up for the full series of retreats.
Christine Sine is offering three seasonal, virtual retreats to explore living in balance and in line with the natural and liturgical rhythms of the year. Join her for one or all of them September 2, October 14 and December 9. These retreats will encourage us to center ourselves and our lives as we move through the seasons beginning in Fall and moving through Advent. They will be times of reflection, creativity and fun.