take a big breath
Last night a bunch of us met together for Curious, a fortnightly spiritual conversation. We've ranged through quite a few different topics over our three years, including living with integrity, living simply, and creative thinking. Lately we've been watching Nooma DVDs, and last night we chose Breathe.
It was startling in its simplicity. God's name in the Old Testament Hebrew was YHWH. Too holy to pronounce, it was more a breath than a name. In breathing the hallowed name, one breathed the essence of God, spirit, life. Perhaps by the act of simply breathing in and out we all acknowledge God who is life and breath, whether we mean to or not. Perhaps we might connect deeply with God by focusing on our breathing, drawing in God's goodness, exhaling the gunge from our hearts.
Now maybe this is all too airy fairy for you, but somehow last night we were all caught up in the simplicity of knowing God with every breath. There is something very freeing about meeting God through something we do every minute of every day of our lives. No straining or toiling, just breathing God in, acknowledging the gift of life. I think we all became more aware of God's presence in us as we drew each breath.
There is something powerful in this image. A few weeks ago I was at a 'Teaching Stillness and Silence' training day. At one point we meditated with YHWH breaths as our focus. At the time I was slumming around, trying to figure out where evolution fits with my belief system, or where my belief system fits with evolution. I was confused, angry, and maybe even feeling betrayed - by God, science, and by my own crazy thoughts. It seemed to me that if science is right (and some scientists I know who also follow Jesus believe the science is right), then evolution is a likely course of events... And suddenly my beliefs were shot. If we all arrived here via evolution, life became meaningless in my mind. What was the point and purpose of life if we crawled out of the slime? If this was true, God may as well be dead. I was having a crisis.
There I was, doubting the very existence of God in the face of strong scientific evidence for evolution, and they asked me to breathe the hallowed name of God. YH (in) WH (out). YH - WH. YH-WH.
Something broke inside me and my eyes filled with tears. I'd be lying if I said all my doubts and questions were instantly erased, but suddenly they did not matter. YH - WH. YH - WH. And as I breathed in and out and focused on breathe, life, God, peace crept in. The mystery of God at work in my heart.
I can't pin God down any more than I can pin down a breath of air. At once ethereal, yet so very real as I am sustained, released, transformed. Breath is fragile and powerful at the same time. I can't see it, I can't explain it but I know it is there. And when I breathe God, YH-WH, YH-WH, I know God is there too. I feel it, moving within me, changing me, softening and making me whole.