Posts Tagged ‘Breath Prayer’


Today our church took us back to the Exodus (the service video if you wish to contemplate on what was shared there can be viewed here). Anyway, it is the start of a series on overcoming fear, which is pertinent within this moment and time when you are seeing the extremist fear reactions we are seeing. These types of reactions do open one up to being susceptible to conversion (radicalization) with the worst outcomes being seen this past week on Capitol Hill in the United States of America. This post is not about the service this morning, but rather using the story from the Hebrew Bible within some reflective and spiritual practices to aid one in understanding themselves in change.

The root though, is the discomfort and fear of the unknown. This is precepted by change, I encourage you to look at the U Theory diagram and see where you are in the process of the change our world is currently undergoing, or to simply hold onto this diagram (and explore it more through resources like Senge’s Presence), as well look at it now and become cursory familiar with the concepts, for it will flow into the next steps:

See the source image

Now we are going to take up a text that is illustrative of the struggle within change, that is Exodus 14:1-31 (The Message), we will be reading this 3 times, but there will be times of reflection between each reading. Take a moment and sit comfortably, as straight up as possible, close your eyes and take deep diaphragmic breaths. Counting up slowly to 10, then back down to 0, do this as many cycles as it takes for you to feel relaxed and disconnected from the cacophony of the household, social media, and world around you. Know that we are in the Exodus story of the Hebrew Bible (you may be familiar with it through such movies as the 10 Commandments, Prince of Egypt, even Veggie Tales). It is a time of slavery, when a person with a disability is called forth by God to go into Egypt and set the people free from an oppressive Empire of the Pharaoh, after many back and forths, 10 plagues, they are free and on the run. Much like a bully who has been confronted though or a leader not knowing when time is up, Pharaoh decides to pursue. The Israelites are now surrounded on two sides by mountains, to move forward is to drown in the Red Sea, and to go back is to either be slaughtered or once more into slavery depending on the ruler’s whimsy. Ever felt like this when a challenge of change arises? Or when a change of life is forced upon us either through enforced retirement? Health (mental or physical) crisis? Layoffs? Loss of life? Or Covid-19 restrictions to keep ourselves and neighbour safe? The fight-flight-freeze response, what emotions are driving this within ourselves? Sometimes we can pinpoint core or raw emotions (i.e. sadness, anger) but there is usually more at play. This is where we are in change as we enter the three hearing cycles and space for contemplation, have paper and pencil/pen/crayons/pencil crayons before you:

First Reading/hearing (if you’re in a household of more than one, take time to have someone read aloud, if not read aloud on your own or use a speaker phone or video call) Exodus 14:1-31, The Message:

1-2 God spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites to turn around and make camp at Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. Camp on the shore of the sea opposite Baal Zephon.

3-4 “Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are lost; they’re confused. The wilderness has closed in on them.’ Then I’ll make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn again and he’ll chase after them. And I’ll use Pharaoh and his army to put my Glory on display. Then the Egyptians will realize that I am God.”

And that’s what happened.

5-7 When the king of Egypt was told that the people were gone, he and his servants changed their minds. They said, “What have we done, letting Israel, our slave labor, go free?” So he had his chariots harnessed up and got his army together. He took six hundred of his best chariots, with the rest of the Egyptian chariots and their drivers coming along.

8-9 God made Pharaoh king of Egypt stubborn, determined to chase the Israelites as they walked out on him without even looking back. The Egyptians gave chase and caught up with them where they had made camp by the sea—all Pharaoh’s horse-drawn chariots and their riders, all his foot soldiers there at Pi Hahiroth opposite Baal Zephon.

10-12 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them—Egyptians! Coming at them!

They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn’t we tell you this would happen? Didn’t we tell you, ‘Leave us alone here in Egypt—we’re better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.’”

13 Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again.

14 God will fight the battle for you.
    And you? You keep your mouths shut!”

15-16 God said to Moses: “Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving. Hold your staff high and stretch your hand out over the sea: Split the sea! The Israelites will walk through the sea on dry ground.

17-18 “Meanwhile I’ll make sure the Egyptians keep up their stubborn chase—I’ll use Pharaoh and his entire army, his chariots and horsemen, to put my Glory on display so that the Egyptians will realize that I am God.”

19-20 The angel of God that had been leading the camp of Israel now shifted and got behind them. And the Pillar of Cloud that had been in front also shifted to the rear. The Cloud was now between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. The Cloud enshrouded one camp in darkness and flooded the other with light. The two camps didn’t come near each other all night.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and God, with a terrific east wind all night long, made the sea go back. He made the sea dry ground. The seawaters split.

22-25 The Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground with the waters a wall to the right and to the left. The Egyptians came after them in full pursuit, every horse and chariot and driver of Pharaoh racing into the middle of the sea. It was now the morning watch. God looked down from the Pillar of Fire and Cloud on the Egyptian army and threw them into a panic. He clogged the wheels of their chariots; they were stuck in the mud.

The Egyptians said, “Run from Israel! God is fighting on their side and against Egypt!”

26 God said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea and the waters will come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots, over their horsemen.”

27-28 Moses stretched his hand out over the sea: As the day broke and the Egyptians were running, the sea returned to its place as before. God dumped the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. The waters returned, drowning the chariots and riders of Pharaoh’s army that had chased after Israel into the sea. Not one of them survived.

29-31 But the Israelites walked right through the middle of the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall to the right and to the left. God delivered Israel that day from the oppression of the Egyptians. And Israel looked at the Egyptian dead, washed up on the shore of the sea, and realized the tremendous power that God brought against the Egyptians. The people were in reverent awe before God and trusted in God and his servant Moses.

This is the time in the quiet, to feel what is bubbling up for you in this moment of change in your life, what emotions are raw and under the surface or at the boiling point? Take time to draw, scribble, colour, write out what you are feeling. Use the emotion wheel below then to find the emotions that come up, and see what others are connected to them, anything else to add to/discern about your feelings, once we know what our heart/soul song is, we can work forward:

Take the most present and precise emotion forward with you as you enter back into the story, taking a rotation count of deep diaphragmic breaths counting up to 10, then back down to 0 as you are an Israelite in the moment on the shore.

This is the moment in time we are in, on the banks wondering what is going to happen? Where will we be? Are we ready to step forward? As the Red Sea parts, and it becomes like an aquarium for the lie thriving within, you have a choice to step into the passage, stay on the shore, or turn back to Egypt (what is known). Reading/Hearing #2 Exodus 14:1-31 the Message:

As you slowly come out with the emotion you took with you, reflect on the U Theory and where you are within it at this point and time in your personal story.

See the source image

Take time to reflect and write-draw-scribble-colour why you are where you are on the U? What is holding you there? What past story is holding you in place, what story will move you forward? Is there a new emotion present you would like to take with you into the third hearing?

As we prepare for the final hearing/reading, take a moment to re-centre yourself. Take the deep diaphragmic breathing count up to 10, then back down to 0. This time take into the story where you are on the U, what you are feeling. As you hear the third hearing, focus on the collapsing waters on the old way, the washing out of the pursuers, that which calls you back to “how it has always been done”, or puts qualifiers on love of neighbour. As we enter:

Third reading/hearing Exodus 14:1-31 as the waters crash behind you as you fearlessly take the step into the unknown…what is being washed away?

Take a moment to draw and write these out. This is what is holding you back now, take a moment to reflect on these “guardians” that have carried you through your life to this point. Honestly thank them, then destroy them as a moment of release.

For crossing through the Red Sea, is about releasing that which enslaved. Now the question arises, what is the below and above surface work you need to accomplish to be in the Promised Land? For it is about the journey….


A new spiritual work…this is a draft of a chapter thought I would share:

For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 1:8

Ah the first step in understanding the Cosmic Christ you are, that’s right the star stuff we are created from, that is the Cosmic Christ within, the divine you in unity with the human you in the here and now. The first step in this reality is living a life of compassion. These are simple lessons of life shown not told. It is in the way that you observed your family behaving, how others were treated. Perhaps it was stories told after the fact, or those that became family legend.

For those without a happy family life, perhaps it was the mentors and family you chose to have in your life that laid out the new reality. This is the reality that exists, and that by beginning this new journey you may see again.

One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living

entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free

from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who

is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with

determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement

 with Me-he is very dear to Me.

                                                –Bhagavad Gita 12: 13-14

The fruits of the Divine within whether you term it Spirit, God, G(o)od, Vishnu, Krishna, Dharma, Karma—the list can go on, but what is evident is we know the star stuff exists as science says, and from that we live out the compassion that burns brightly. By acknowledging it and listening to it, we move beyond the “Old Laws” like Moses character was used to lay out in the 10 Commandments (and the 617 in Leviticus) that in our infancy story guided us towards a selfless self-love life that drew us closest to the divine.

My family was raised with many living examples of the simplicity that is compassion, as Paul wrote to the church in Philippi there is a compassion within each of us as was witnessed in the life of the Master Teacher Jesus of Nazareth. This is the compassion that if you take time to be present in your own story, and the great story around you will see.

In my own life it was being 16 years old and being at my Granddad’s funeral, having many of the now adults that grew up in the town with my grandparents and them sharing the open door they had in their home for the neighbourhood kids, always having the open listening ear to help them work through life issues to come to a solution.

It was hearing about my Grandma Ragan working in a diner in Canada around the Air Force bases, and refusing to bend to American soldier’s whims not to serve African Canadian Soldiers and welcoming them all in. Her following the life of a friend of my Uncle’s of Japanese descent and celebrating his milestones, even though she should have been of a generation that saw him as “enemy”.

It was the open welcoming door in my own home growing up, where whichever person entered became part of the family. My Mum and Dad always having a helping hand for friend, family, neighbour or stranger whether it was help with child care, food, rides or just a listening ear, and a strong shoulder for tears.

These were not people that trumpeted their simple acts of compassion as anything more than simply what one did in life to help another member of the family that is humanity. It is stepping away from mourning what “we don’t have” or “what we can’t do” to looking at the blessing we are, the purpose we have been given and are doing, to something deeper.

N-A-M-A-S-T-E-

The divine in me sees and recognizes the divine in you.

To one step more…even when you don’t I will see it and respond to it, and interact with you as such to help bring you begin to see you as the truth of divinity you are.

An ancient story was used by Jesus of Nazareth, Brother Jesus in Franciscan teachings, from the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a physician and a historian who tradition of the church states in his works Luke and Acts of the Apostles set out to write an orderly historical account of the early church. What is also noted as you read these works as one, these are not high faluting theological texts like John (Greek) or Matthew (Jewish) or a Roman Action Flick like Mark, no Luke is like the investigative reports of the ancient world.

It starts with the story of a girl without voice, nothing more than property, that God breaks that culturally established walls of propriety and asks Mary of Nazareth, if she wants to take on the shame, the outcast, the challenge of a lifetime in becoming a living example of compassion to the world. Would she become a mother out of wedlock? Essentially if her betrothed did not choose to follow would lead to her execution by stoning or being cast out the city to become a beggar/child sex trade worker for survivial.

Yet she chose the power of love, hope and compassion. Mary chose her yes.

The rest of Luke’s works are filled with stories that poke the bear if you will of cultural norms and challenges them. I do believe if Luke was writing in the Twenty-First Century about the church he would tear open the idiocy of the debate around full inclusion by sharing power stories of the divine within the lives of Trans folk, LGBTTQ, the single parents, the addicts, the abused, the fallen from grace and those with disabilities in such a way that they would be as fully included as Mary of Nazareth and lives as celebrated.

But I digress. For this is the backdrop of the writer as Brother Jesus is answering questions. And then a powerful story emerges over a question of “who is my neighbour?”

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must

I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What

do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all

your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your

mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given

the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell

into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving

him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when

he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came

to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while

traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He

went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then

he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The

next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care

of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which

 of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of

the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go

and do likewise.”

-Luke 10: 25-37

At this point it is time to pause and let the story speak to you. This is a mix of breath prayer and Lectio Divina. The Divine Reading as taught by Ignatius of Loyola as a method of study to allow the inner divinity to speak to you through the ancient stories. Read the story three times, if you can find an audio link online then listen to it. With each reading/listening there will be a question to reflect upon.

Sit comfortably, slow your breathing, focusing on it. Feel the environment you are in fade away. Feel the gritty sand get between your toes, the arid desert air, the sounds of the market place, bleating of live stock, haggling. Take in the aromas of the sacrifices, the fresh food, cooking, children singing and dancing, soldiers moving in and out taking what they want. You find the small group surrounding the labourer who has become a rabbi. How not many know, but they have all heard the legends of this man, the whispers that he is the bastard child of a Roman soldier, yet there is something in his manner, the way he looks upon everyone with tenderness, and compassion regardless of who they are or where they are from, he draws you into the conversation. The lawyer asks the question…who is my neighbour? The priest and the levite are so heavenly minded they will not stray from the rules of holiness to help someone in need, which makes them no earthly good. The Samaritan is part of a race from an exile of ancient Israel that saw them remain in exile and inter-marry with the conquerors, they worship God differently, they are seen as traitor’s to the chosen people, the stereotypical villain of every story.

Hear the story for the first time, during this reading as you walk through as the priest. What times in your life flash back to when you responded as the Priest and Levite? What truth emerges in these memories as you sit with them? Now as you sit write them out, colour them out to cleanse your Chakra energy of this negativity.

Sit looking at the old, are you ready to release this way of being? If so walk it out the garbage bin outside your home, rip it up and throw it in, walk away from this old way of being. If not note why, and come back to it later.

Hear the story for a second time this time as the Samaritan left hurting and bloodied by   bandits on the road side. What comes to you, with those that at first walked past  that you expected aid from and none came as with the Priest and Levite? Write and colour this out in your breathing again to get it out of you. In these moments where did aid come from surprising sources, take this thought and enter it into your journal as a reminder of times when someone else’s divinity came to you.

Are you ready to dispose of the hurt and pain of being left by the roadside by those you believed to be friend or helper? If you are take the walk as before and dispose of, if not place in your journal and note why you are not ready yet?

Hear the story for a third time, this time hear it as the Samaritan. What makes you stop? What times in your life have you lived out this compassion regardless of labels? Not these in your journal to remind yourself of living compassionately, invest these in your heart and sit with them.

Slowly bring your breathing back to normal, the aromas of the market place vanish, the sounds dissipate, the sand and breeze are gone, feel the chair reform around you, hear the sounds of your world, and the new aromas of your world. You are back and have a question to answer? As you interact with your world, others in your community, your workplace, your place of worship, your home and within yourself.

One simple question to answer: 

Who is my neighbour?

 

One simple question to answer:

Who is my neighbour?