I was intrigued by this small comment found in the Gospel according to John. I wondered what my breath conveyed to people in my life.
June tends to be a month of celebration for many of us. This year I was present to my grand-niece graduating from high school. I felt my breath stop as she walked into the coliseum with 225 others. A whole chapter of her life is ending only to await a new chapter of college soon to begin. Losing all sense of dignity and decorum, we yelled and cheered as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma. The breath was literally breathless when she stepped off the stage! So proud of her and her accomplishments, there wasn’t enough breath to express our sheer love for her.
At the gathering of family and friends who joined to celebrate with each other, the breath seemed to be one of gratitude. So many different people had prepared the space with beautiful decorations, food enough for the 40 or more who were present. And I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t need to set up or clean up after it was over! My breath in those moments was truly a breath of blessing on all who were there.
Birthday celebrations for a 4 year old and her brother who turned 6 brought moments of wonder and awe for these two precious children and their parents. Each child was delighted with the multitude of gifts they were given and were able to say ‘thank you’ to each person who had gifted them. I was amused at the 4 year old who was more excited about the Play-doh and head bands than all the other more expensive gifts she received. My breath in those moments was one of loving laughter.
But our breath is not always a breath of delight. A beloved Aunt will be moved out of her apartment into a nursing home this month. As I received the news, I felt myself literally hold my breath in grief. Knowing it is the best decision for her quality of care did not ease the grief that this move implies. Only when I could imagine myself enfolding her in love could I release my breath as an instrument of loving tenderness.
Jesus breathed on the disciples his spirit of forgiveness with a choice each of them would be faced to make. As you forgive all will be forgiven. To not forgive, all is held bound. What an amazing breath for each of us – a breath of forgiveness for self and others.
As we continue to breathe through this month, I invite you to join me in becoming more aware of the different expressions our breath conveys. What an amazing community spiritual practice this can become!