The leaves have fallen and the snow has arrived, heralding the onset of winter. It is the chill air that I notice most, as I pull down my hat and pull up the scarf to protect my face. And yet, when I stop and stand and pause, I love the bracing coolness of the air.
This week, take some inspiration from Unitarian Universalist Brian Nelson’s meditation on air. Stop one day on the sidewalk and breathe and simply experience the air all around you and within you.
As the autumn air grows chill, take this opportunity to become mindful:
be aware of the air itself.
“The air is the most pervasive presence I can name,
enveloping, embracing, and caressing me
inside and out.”*
We swim in the air even more deeply then we swim in the water;
it bathes us as it slips into our lungs and fills our hearts.
Every breath refreshes us, calms us,
and yet sometimes the breath startles us.
Remember this: the word spirit comes from the latin for breath.
As we bundle up against the oncoming chill,
face the wind and feel the prickles of cold air against the skin,
an icy reminder of the invisible realm of life.
* (David Abrams, The Spell of the Sensuous)
Adapted from Earth Bound, daily meditations by Brian Nelson
Spiritual practices are an avenue to experiences of awe. Awe is our emotional response to things perceived as so vast and overwhelming that the experience of them alters the way we understand the world. Awe is one way to gain perspective, a sense of our own lives in relation to the greater whole. Cultivating awe helps us feel more satisfied with our lives and have a more expansive sense of time. As Unitarian Universalists we celebrate the mystery; experiences of the universe remind us of just how much true magnificence and mystery surrounds our planet. Contemplating the wonders of the universe is a core practice for contemporary Unitarians as it brings together the results of scientific exploration and spiritual reverence.
The final Lectio Universum uses classical music and images from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field to pull us into the infinite universe. Without words, this meditation video by youtuber Jakub Barabas provides a glimpse of the astonishing beauty of the universe, at a scale that is almost incomprehensible. Watch this video in a quiet place in a dimly lit room.
Lectio Universum is a spiritual practice of this century.
It has only been in the last fifty years that we have been able to look back at the earth from space and see far into the depths of the universe. The universe is astounding, amazing, truly awesome in every sense of the world. Contemplating the vastness of this mystery which surrounds us helps us place our own lives in proportion. There is something both humbling and inspiring in being reminded of our relation to one another and the planet.
This video begins with the image of the earth – a pale blue dot – taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it left our solar system in 1990. Astronomer Carl Sagan asked that this image be taken, his reflections on the image narrate the video. Sagan’s words have inspired several videos, this is the simple one from his official site.
Take some time to sit in silence, breathing deeply, both before and after watching this video.
The spiritual practice of lectio universum speaks to our first and fifth sources. The first source is Wonder: direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder…. and the fifth is Reason: humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science…. This video by Max Schlickenmeyer captures the deep wonder that can be found in scientific knowledge.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist who speaks eloquently on science, the universe, and everything. His words frame this beautiful video meditation about our connection to the greater whole.
Please find a quiet place to watch and take some time to sit afterwards in contemplation.