When we breath in and out, there is a space between those two events. That space seems to me to be connected to that great myth-moment in which God brooded over the wildness of the planet in our Hebrew creation story. My dog Kai broods over me often these days. He just gets very close to me, completely invading my personal space. He seems not to care about personal space. He pushes up against me, his chest against my shoulder, his breath on my cheek, his eyes on my hair and ear – and he broods. This is one of the great gifts of any unconditional love – observation, proximity and longing without judgement are a powerful force of good in the world.
That space in-between the in breath and the out breath, says my Buddhist friends, is a precious moment. And so too, Christians know that silence and stillness is often where great awake-ness happens.
It is that space between the in-breath and the out-great that is where the heavens seem to enter into us like a team of surgeons looking for a tumor they saw on an MRI. And this may be why, when we pray the psalms in morning and evening prayer every day in the cathedral, that endless psalms are all punctuated with a space the length of a full breath between the phrases (at the asterix). What is lovely is when we can feel that silence and what is equally hard is knowing that it is just as easy in liturgy to sleepily, dully, mindlessly use the words as nothing more than a way to feel spiritual; using them as some kind of lucky charm or marketing tech night of self-promotion.
Yesterday, I stopped by the road on the way to meetings at Cathedral Ridge, the gorgeous diocesan retreat center. My heart soars when I make this drive the way Kai gets agitated and wags his tail when I take hold of his leash. I opened my wrapping paper to eat my lunch – this menu pictured above – and met, again, the specter of knowing that the things I saw I could not , would not register taste in me. But I remembered the taste of bread, its mild, sour tang, and the gorgeousness of Tellegio cheese and the smell of summer in a tomato and realized that the grief and loss we all experience in anything which we feel has been taken, or is being taken, or might one day be taken, is best taken into the silence between our breath in prayer and meditation.
When, in silence and over tumult, God brooded over the planet as He created it; God was modeling a technology. God was about to create something which would make God vulnerable because God would love it. That is why, in the creation story, God hesitates and asks about the wisdom of creating humans. When we can fashion our lives to be able to appreciate and use the silence between our breaths, we can begin to tap into the kind of detachment which de-escalates the thoughts we have, and welcomes the Holy Spirit as Comforter – and you can feel her if you pay attention – her chest at your shoulder, her hair brushing your ear, her breath on your cheek, her love calming your fears.