Just Breathe

On the cover of the latest issue of Parabola, “Science and Spirit,” there is a beautiful angel, gazing down at the world with grave compassion.  While the publisher says the angel is a he, I am more than certain this particular angel is a she.  She looks so much like the apparition I describe in my story “Elizabeth” that I find myself freezing every time I pass the table where the brand new copies of Parabola are stacked.

I am not saying that I wrote about personally encountering an angel (a tradition-breaking female angel) in venerable old Parabola.  What I’m moved to say today—what I know from ordinary everyday experience as well as from the reminders in “Science and Spirit”– is that the universe is alive, radiantly and responsively alive.   We see and touch and influence and reflect each other.  To paraphrase Whitman, we are so interconnected we each contain multitudes, molecules, memories, the stuff of stars–and maybe the gentle impact of angels.   The hardest scientific heads among us—those who would scoff at any talk of love being a real force like gravity cannot deny the evidence of generosity.  On every level this is true: the more we open, the more we receive.

Sometimes, as in the act of really seeing someone or something—really taking them instead of looking at them—we can realize that giving and receiving are aspects of the same organic action, like breathing in and breathing out.  In such moments, we realize that we are made to live in such a way—that we do not need to remake ourselves after all.  We just need to patiently note all that distracts us from our natural capacity to give and receive, from our natural capacity to give attention with heart and mind, to breath with life, to come out of the isolation of our thoughts and participate in the moving, luminous, moving, living whole.

I’m just back from the Catskills, where I spent four days as a guest at a conference that included venerable teachers from the Gurdjieff foundations in London, Paris, New York, and Caracas—along with many people from many places, new friends and old friends.  The gathering reminded me of the extraordinary power of what the Buddhists call sangha, spiritual community.  It gave me an inkling of why the Buddha insisted that noble friends (or fellow seekers) are not just part but the whole of the spiritual life.   In spite of the predictable human comedy—i.e. problems with the sound system, so that one meditation leader who wouldn’t give any instructions ended up giving us just his amplified breathing (which I tried to reframe as an instruction but it sounded too much like Darth Vadar to my sleep-deprived ears).  Another leader, the English-born Paris-based theater director Peter Brook, didn’t have his sound system switched on, so that he sounded a little like Hamlet’s ghost—I mean, you would hear a grand and elderly Shakespearean accent intoning “this solid flesh…” then fade away (I have enormous respect for both these leaders, dear readers.  My subjective experience takes nothing from their brilliance).  But in spite of this and the 10,000 other sorrows and discomforts this flesh must endure, the group of us held and reflected to each other a very special kind of silence.  We formed a human satellite dish, helping each of us receive an energy that usually seems as far away as the most distant stars (but as I said, we have star stuff in us, like calls to like).

On the way home yesterday, I drove around Bear Mountain and across the Bear Mountain Bridge.  It was a blue sky day and the leaves blazed orange and red and yellow.  I spontaneously thanked God for creation, for my life, for Noble friends like you.  Now I am visiting my 93-year-old father, who recently entered hospice.  I realize there is nothing really to do, under all the busyness, just accompanying each other, just allowing ourselves to give and receive, to breathe.

 

 

Comments

  1. Adding my two cents to your female angel comment … imagine the sight of you to your father, gently breathing beside him, in the full glow of love. May your angelic presence be a comfort to your father. May you be comforted in these difficult times knowing to be present this way is to be the embodiment of an angel.
    Giselle M. Massi
    gisellemassi.com

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  2. Thank you for this uplifting blog.
    You have written much lately about Elizabeth and angels.
    Last night I was holding my great granddaughter. She is one month old. Her eyes were uplifted, focusing on something above and beyond me. “Angels?” , I questioned.
    Then a short time later another family member remarked that he thought the baby was tracking an angel, or angels. Then a few more chimed in that they had had the same thought earlier in the day. I believe in angels, and that they visit us in many ways and forms…a stranger giving a smile just when I needed one, for example
    Tracy, new life and old life (yes, mine too) are all connected as we share in one another’s story. I believe too in that fine veil between this world and the “other world”.
    All of life is a gift. I give thanks for your father, and I am with you both in spirit as you share in this most precious time!
    Peace and blessings, my friend,
    E

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  3. Hi Tracy

    Being that I’m stuck here waiting for Sandy, I’ll take the opportunity to respond to you.

    “I am not saying that I wrote about personally encountering an angel (a tradition-breaking female angel) in venerable old Parabola. What I’m moved to say today—what I know from ordinary everyday experience as well as from the reminders in “Science and Spirit”– is that the universe is alive, radiantly and responsively alive. We see and touch and influence and reflect each other. To paraphrase Whitman, we are so interconnected we each contain multitudes, molecules, memories, the stuff of stars–and maybe the gentle impact of angels. The hardest scientific heads among us—those who would scoff at any talk of love being a real force like gravity cannot deny the evidence of generosity. On every level this is true: the more we open, the more we receive:
    ****************

    “Real love is the basis of all, the foundations, the Source. The religions have perverted and deformed love. It was by love that Jesus performed miracles. Real love joined with magnetism. All accumulated vibrations create a current. This current brings the force of love. Real love is a cosmic force which goes through us. If we crystallize it, it becomes a power—the greatest power in the world.” -G.I.Gurdjieff – from Meetings at 6 rue des Colonels-Renard, Paris -1938
    ******************

    Probably the greatest harm resulting from the New Age condemnation of the mind is the loss of the sincerity to admit what Jesus warned us of which denies the potential Gurdjieff refers to.

    Matthew 15

    16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”
    ***************

    It is easy to become dull through wishful thinking and unaware of how the human heart has been diminished even through the wonderful thoughts of escapism. It is only the mind that can become aware of it since we’ve been conditioned to be satisfied with fantasy the emotions delight in.

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