I was falling. I was flailing. I was lost and lonely. I could barely find my breath, but I kept breathing. And so I said it: “God! Where are you?” The answer came instantly: “I am in your breath.” In. My. Breath. This was a reminder, and not a newfound fact.
I grew up going to church: “God is always with you!” Coffee (cookie) hours, handmade Bible character puppets, white angel choir robes and bringing cans for the food pantry was the air I breathed. And, certainly, a youth director looking me straight in the eyes and proclaiming, “You know, God REALLY does love you!” is one of my most profound life experiences.
However, I also was taught God created the whole world and that I was made in God’s image. And so, I saw God in colorful Colorado mountain trails and sunsets. I felt resurrection life in my graceful, changing, moving middle school ballet body. Gliding through water, my heart pounded awareness of sacred presence and peace in a pool. In yoga, moving with breath, my mind was still, my heart receptive and my feet grounded in the certainty of Sacred presence and love. Not just around me. But within me.
Now, the church, it is true, has spent centuries being suspicious of and even downright hostile to bodies. (We have Greek-influenced Paul to thank for that.) What we know and believe is God. And god. Faith is a chin-up proposition. This is rather ironic. Today we begin counting down to the celebration of God becoming “flesh.” Air breathing, bare foot feet walking, lake trotting, mountain climbing, touching healing eyes and hearts, lap holding children, water-into-wine Holy. Jesus.
Our society, whether churchgoing or not, has a strange relationship with bodies. We love and worship them. We hate and despise them. While we may be “into” bodies we are not “in” them. We spend lots of time in our heads, our monkey minds running, our thinking, thinking, thinking! Meanwhile, our bodies carry us around, for better or worse, longing to impart wisdom and longing to communicate the state of our deepest selves. But, we are often too hard-headed to hear. And, to the original subject at hand: It is the body that comprehends and communicates to our awareness the mysterious presence of God. Body, mind, spirit, emotions, memories, all of it, (all of us) is entangled, entwined, interacting and this newfound knowledge leads us to greater knowledge, power and wholeness. This exciting evolution is happening in medicine, education and religion.
I am part of a church and denomination that, from its origins, had a sense of this truth. Hospitals and schools have always been built right beside churches all over the world. We support “Health Care for All” and work at Stone Soup. “Soul Hikes” are offered to receive the healing gifts of nature and moving together. Yoga, not in the pews, but with mats, bolsters and chairs, gives new life to bodies and souls. Reiki, healing prayer, involves gentle touch as a means to instill wholeness and well-being. While there is not a whole lot of moving going on during worship, we do breathe together. We breathe in peace. We breathe out love and kindness.
Now is a season that takes our breath away, sometimes for its beauty and other times for its grief. I invite you to consider how you can honor your own body during this time. Give gifts that contribute to the health of other’s bodies. And above all else: Breathe! Sacred life is in your breath.