“You say a prayer in your religion, and I will say a prayer as I know it. Together we will say this prayer and it will be something beautiful for God.” -Mother Teresa
When it comes right down to it, we pray the same way. All of us meet God in our breath.
“Sometimes breathing is the only prayer we can pray, and God hears our sigh and once again breathes the breath of life into us. We exhale, and it seems like such a little thing. But some days it is everything. It is communion—intimate and more than breathing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. It is sacred and it is holy: this agreeing with God that we need God, for all of everything, and his joyful entering into our lives and ourselves and our very souls to make us one with him. We are gulping and breathing and sighing and gasping, and we realize our deep, deep hunger inside.” –Deidra Riggs, Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where We Are
One of the many troubling aspects of this week’s terrorism is the reminder of how little control we have in our life. Our first instinct is to build up walls of safety in our mind or our world—we plan, we change plans, we compulsively think, we reconsider. We realize we cannot control terrorists or anyone else.
We grieve this lack of control. But, unless we want to travel down the road of fear, spinning circles in our own angst, we have to come to terms with this illusion of control. It is not something we have ever had. We cannot know when we will take our last breath.
Keep death daily before our eyes, Saint Benedict writes. (RSB, 4.47). Being aware of and honoring our mortality may seem morbid, but it ultimately gives us freedom from fear and brings peace. This is the moment to moment surrendering of control that becomes our prayer.
We just need to breathe. This surrendering takes time; it is a practice.
“The breath is a primary example of how we cannot control our happiness despite our best efforts. Our bodies breathe automatically, without contrivance, clinging, over-thinking. The air is freely given. We can only realize our dependence upon the air that surrounds us and surrender to the gratuity of air coming and going….The Jews did not speak God’s name, but breathed it with an open mouth and throat: inhale–Yah; exhale–weh. By our very breathing we are speaking the name of God. This makes it our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world.” –Richard Rohr
We have in common that we breathe the same air, the “Yah-weh” breath that comes from God. We breathe the same air as the refugee, the terrorist, the Muslim, the Hindu or the Christian. Republican or Democratic. Liberal or conservative. Protestant or Catholic. We breathe the same air as those we disagree with and those we live with (and sometimes they are one and the same.)
It’s about time we start sharing the same breath. A beautiful example of this shared today-
Five religions in Thailand send powerful message to people of Paris.
What can we do to stand next to the one who believes, speaks, looks differently? How can we in our ordinary lives honor that same breath of God in others?
My friend, Deidra, writes about her experience of growing up in a black church. “One of the richest traditions in the black church is what is known as call and response. When the preacher preaches, it is not one-way
communication. Preaching, in the black church tradition, is a beautiful dance between the pulpit and the pew with the Holy Spirit orchestrating the sacred exchange…Words like Amen or Hallelujah or Thank you Jesus or Preach are shouted out.” #EveryLittleThing
Her church may be different than mine: call and response versus incense and sacraments; silence versus shouting. But what we both have in common, what we ALL have in common is that every little thing we do is for the benefit of the Body of Christ, the whole world, everyone who breathes the breath of God.
We are here to make a difference.
I’ve been Catholic, charismatic, United Methodist, Benedictine and a Catholic-come-home. I practice contemplative prayer in the style of Zen. I am a Benedictine Oblate. I’ve been to Tarot card readers, psychics and mediums. There have been years where I gave God little thought. I’ve explored the writings of authors from a variety of perspectives and traditions: Buddhist, new-age, self-help, Catholic, Sufi and more. I write this to say:
This journey is my own. We each have our own spiritual journey, religious tradition, opinions, beliefs, family dynamics, traumatic experiences, country of origin and so on—but we all breathe the same breath of God.
We may not have control, but we hunger for peace despite our differences.
We want to make a difference, despite our differences.
Perhaps this can be one little thing we can do to help tear down walls and build peace.
Breathe in “Yah”. Breathe out “weh”. And let there be peace on earth. May we honor the breath of God that flows through each of us.
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”
~ Gandalf, Lord of the Rings