Every breath is a sacrament…

“Air is a matrix which joins all life together”, says scientist David Suzuki. “It is constantly changing as life and geophysical forces add and subtract constituents to the composition of air, and yet over vast stretches of time the basic composition of air has remained in dynamic equilibrium. The longer each of us lives, the greater the likelihood that we will absorb atoms that were once part of Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ, of Neanderthal people and woolly mammoths. As we have breathed in our forebears, so our grandchildren and their grandchildren will take us in with their breath. We are bound up inseparably with the past and the future by the spirit we share.

Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things…”   from The Sacred Balance, p.38

Breathing Gratitude

This simple breathing meditation is an exercise in thankfulness. Find a quiet place and sit comfortably, either on the floor or on a chair, with your hands lying loosely on your knees. Close your eyes.

Breathe in with gratitude for your parents, grand-parents, great-grand parents all the way back to your early ancestors.  The air rushing into your lungs was their air too.

Breathe out with love, a gift to all the children of the planet, those with us now and those still to arrive. The air leaving your lungs will be their air too.

Breathe in with gratitude, breathe out with love.

Remember that each breath connects you to all has lived, is living, and will ever live.

Breathe in with gratitude, breathe out with love.

Sit with this meditation for five to fifteen minutes.


As the Wind Blows

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” Charles Dickens

This month our spiritual practices focus on the element of air, as we pay attention to the vital force that exists unseen all around us. This week we consider the wind. This observation practice comes from neo-pagan author and activist Starhawk’s book The Earth Path. Try this practice two or three times, at different times of the day, with different levels of wind. As you learn the various ways wind moves, you will become more aware of the earth around you.

Wind Observation

Go outside to a place where you can sit and observe undisturbed, in your backyard or in the park. Sit with your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands on your legs with your palms face up. Close your eyes and sit for a minute breathing deeply. Open your eyes.

Focus on the air and wind around you. Where is it coming from? What direction? What can you smell in the air?

Feel the air on your skin. Is it moving or still, gentle or strong? Is it cold or warm?

Listen to the sound of the wind. What is it moving through? Is it moving through trees, houses, concrete walls? It will sound differently depending on the landscape.

Stand up and move around.  Find a place where the wind moves strongly. Contrast that with a place sheltered from the wind.

Learn what the wind is telling you about the place where you are.

The Air Aware

We live immersed in air. We can’t live without this most essential element of life. Air is an invisible power, we can only see it through its effect on the planet: trees bending in the wind, ripples in a pond, a plastic bag tumbling in a parking lot. This month we turn our attention to the atmosphere.

As Unitarian Universalists we honour air as a vital life force that infuses the interdependent web. Breath is part of our weekly practice of meditation within a service, it represents the greater whole to which we all belong. Even an empty chalice is filled with air. Air is both within and without, oxygenating our blood, filling our lungs, surrounding us. We are not separate from the air which we breathe, through it we are connected to all other beings.

This March, as spring begins to emerge on earth, we will explore the element of air through various meditations and physical activities.

Video Meditation

This week’s practice is visual meditation. You may watch one or both of these short two minute videos. Consider watching the videos twice through. Find a quiet place and turn the sound up on your computer. Put the video to full screen. Let your eyes go soft as you watch the images. It`s okay if your mind wanders; the point is not to empty your mind, but to not get caught up in your thoughts, to let them flow in and out of you like breath.

Take a minute to steady your breath before you begin a video.

Breathe in, breathe out.

This first video explores the power and beauty of the atmosphere and uses instrumental music.

If you are interested in a neo-pagan understanding of the element of air, the video below provides details of its associations.  The sound track is a recording of the wind and is especially evocative if you listen without looking.


A World of Wonder

“Wonder is the basis of worship.” Thomas Carlyle, philosopher (1795 -1881).

For this week’s spiritual practice of writing, we explore the theme of wonder. Author Brian Doyle says “Nothing could be as useful, as generative of joy and mercy, as energizing and refreshing, as nakedly holy, as a faucet of wonder that never shuts off.”

Moments of wonder for me include: making snow angels under the northern lights in Saskatchewan, watching a baby blue jay learn to fly in my back garden, even watching the epic paintball battle of season one of Community. All these experiences were intersections where my spirit met the greater whole and said “wow”. The vastness of the universe, the beautiful life surrounding us, the comedic brilliance of humanity, all remind me that this planet is an amazing place to live.

Please see last week’s post for the protocol of this spiritual practice.  Find a quiet place and plan to take at least 10 minutes for writing.

Theme:  Wonder
Where and when and how have you experienced wonder? What moments have made in awe at the wonders of the world?
Describe each experience in detail: where you were, who you were with, what it looked like, what it sounded like, and what it felt like.
Where have you experienced wonder?

Deep like the Rivers

My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Langston Hughes.

In this final week of water practices, we will be using water as a meditation guide.

The sight and sound of water is highly evocative – the roar of a waterfall, the chatter of a creek, the soothing rush of low waves. The rich sensory offerings of water helps us to move into a meditative state, in which we can ground and center ourselves. Regular meditation refreshes our spirits, helps us meet the challenges of the day. Take ten minutes each day this week to meditate to the sights and sounds of water, the elixir of life, which sustains us all.  You can either play the video, or read the words before sitting in meditation.

Video Meditation
Play the video below, let your eyes go soft as you watch the water.  If it is easier, close your eyes and simply listen to the flowing water. It`s okay if your mind wanders; the point is not to empty your mind, but to not get caught up in your thoughts, to let them flow by you as the water flows. Gently remind yourself to come back to the water. Let your emotions – boredom, discomfort, sadness, joy – flow by as well.  Breathe in, breathe out, watch the water.  Video by Johnnie Lawson, Meditative Artist. (Warning: this video begins with ad).

Guided Meditation
The words below offer a guided meditation.  If you are using it for yourself, read a sentence out loud or silently, then close your eyes and image the scene.  To read aloud for others, invite them into a quiet time.  Ask them to settle into a comfortable sitting down or lying down position and close their eyes.  You might ask kids to wiggle their legs and arms and relax.  Wait for calm, then read the meditation out loud, pausing between sentences. Let there be silence when needed.

The Pool in the Forest
Breathe deeply, picture yourself walking along a path in a maple- pine forest. Breathe in that sharp pine scent.  Maple leaves crunch under your feet as you soak in the warm sunshine. Mushrooms poke out of the ground, moss hangs off branches. As you walk, the path begins to slope down toward a creek. You pass by limestone outcroppings, pale and solid and beautiful. You come to the creek and wander alongside, stepping from stone to stone.

Breathe deeply. You find yourself walking up to the source of the creek, a clear spring-fed pool. Dip into the water.  It is cold and refreshing. Cup your hands and take a drink. The water tastes sweet. It feels bracingly alive as it drips off your fingers. The water is so inviting, you decide to swim. As you dive in, feel the rush of energy as your body is immersed in the cool water. Every cell of your body feels completely alive. The water swirls and encircles you.

Relax into the soft embrace of the pool, let go of tension and breathe. Float quietly, supported by the gently moving water. Let your worries go like leaves floating downstream. Stay floating and drifting in the water. Let your thoughts dance along in the silence. Relax into the sunlit pool.

Breathe deeply. Feel the water in your blood and in your cells. The water within you,the water surrounding you. It is all one. One element. One whole.

Remember this as you climb out of the pool, reinvigorated. Remember this sense of belonging as you leave the pool, walking back along the stream.  Remember the wholeness as you walk back out of the pine forest and into your ordinary, extraordinary life.


Water Awareness

This week we will focus on running water, developing sensory awareness as a spiritual practice. Sensory awareness or “reverential contemplation” is a Unitarian Universalist way to access our first and sixth sources. Reverential contemplation can lead us to experiences of mystery and wonder and help us connect to the rhythms of nature. Neo-pagans, taoists. naturalists and martial artists may also  develop their sensory awareness as part of their learning process. Through deep breathing, grounding the self, and paying attention, we can increase our connection to the world around us, reminding us we are part of a “great conversation” among all life on earth.

Flowing Water

Find a source of running water, seek out a trickling stream or rushing river or go sit by Lake Ontario. If you can’t get outside, use a water fountain (I found one at a second hand store for a few dollars), or stand by the sink as you are filling it to do the dishes.

Breathe deeply. Feel your feet firmly, yet loosely, planted on the ground. Let your worries and stresses sink down into your feet and into the ground. Listen to the sounds of life around you. Breathe deeply.

Focus your eyes and ears on the water. Watch its movement and form. Notice the shapes and patterns that it makes, where it runs fast and where it slows down. Look at how it pools and puddles. Breathe in. What does the water smell like?

If outside, notice the way the patterns of movement form and reflect the shapes the land. The visible motion is only the surface layer, there is more complex motion below.  What can the surface tell you about the depths? Notice how the light plays off the water, changing as the water changes.

If you are inside, be aware of the sounds the water makes at different depths, as it touches different materials like metal or ceramic. Change the pressure, notice what happens to the motion of water as the flow increases or decreases.

After five minutes, breathe deeply and look away from the water.  Take a minute to reflect on your experience of flowing water.

Water in Motion exercise adapted from Starhawk’s The Earth Path


Solstice Blessing


In the shadowed quiet of winter’s light
earth mourns softly…

Kneel down here
on the frosty grass,
and seek the hope buried in the ground.

Bend your ear to the beating heart of the planet
and listen hard.

A whisper: love this world.

Distill peace from the snow
and water the cities
with mercy.

Weave wonder from the forest
and clothe grief
with beauty.

Rest in the rhythm of the turning year,
trace the golden threads
connecting all beings,
and vow anew to do no harm.

The winter trees stand watch
haloed in the last gleams of the slanting sun.

Branches sway.
Birds sing.
Wonder abounds.

Make your life an answer:
Pay Attention.
Be Connected.
Live in Awe.

adapted from  Rebecca Parker’s A Winter Blessing