Breath Incarnate

comments 68
Reflections

Peace taken up by the flesh has a rhythm to it.  A field of frozen grass and falling snow, mixed with true inhabitants, will ripple with tongues of steam.  Life will move in and out of itself, and possibilities will disperse from their smoky origins, drift into the branches of trees at the field’s edge, and nestle into nooks beneath the boughs.

We share a breath that’s always breathing– here and there and all at once– a breath that snuck into itself and made a circle, and then snuck into itself and made a circle, and then snuck into itself and made a circle.  We share a breath that claims every face as her own, every emptiness as one of her dwellings.  She presses against our root, drawing everything near, and pauses for a moment, losing her every distinction into our silence.  Then we give her back, and she washes out all the way to distant shores, exposing the silt of our dreams.  Steam fills the air and sparkles as it cools into ash, while a trace part of us is carried even farther beyond, to every point of the sea.  Rising and falling with the water.

Sometimes we like to think otherwise, but when we are at peace we understand that it is the nature of our being to erode bit-by-bit until we mix with everything, touch everything, and mingle with every shore.  Our concentration is a gradient without a boundary– a swirling, scattering pattern of breathing. We are loci of a swaying proximity to everything.

When we stop seeking, this is what we find: the world is breathing us.  And we are breathing the world.  Each time it looks the same– a billowing cloud of white gases that billow and spin and vanish, fading back into the greater breath– but every time it’s also a little different.  The world hinges on subtleties contained in our breath.  That is how the world moves.  Every time the wave of this great breathing washes into us, symbols and stories mix, and a little more of what will be dissolves.  The shorelines of our silence erode and become fluid.  The dye of our beauty is released.  Circles inside of circles inside of circles– we are the points of contact with a vast and hidden continent.  We are the caves in which the breath we share once hid its secrets.

And we keep wondering who we are.  We keep wondering what we mean and what we can be, when what we can be was already given.  We have already been deposited in endless glaciers of rock, and they are slowly dissolving into the water.  It simply takes the action of our breathing to shake us loose.  It takes the breath that’s happening everywhere.  And listening to it.  We are the bellows of world-building, and the grains that wash out of us with every silent tide are our prayers– wordless particles that mix together in the sea.

I think it takes a while to learn that loving isn’t a skill we learn– that no one can be more or less loving.  We can only get out of the way.  We can only keep breathing in synchrony with the breath that is breathing us, with the breath that is climbing into every being for a look and then climbing back out into the sky as something else altogether.  We can only give ourselves to it, so that our prayers have a little of everyone in them, so that our circle can live inside of other circles, that live inside of other circles, that live inside of a breath that’s always breathing.

68 Comments

  1. I read this in my shivering cold world, where beyond the window white snow falls so gently and as I see my dogs come running from beyond the white woods, their breath visible as they stand waiting at the door, I read your words and realize the depth of a life that breathes and moves and in its endless circle of the amazing minutia of each moment and how it is all connected. I thank you for this lovely piece Michael, circle upon circle like a world Mandela moving in and out like a beautiful dream of your words. Peace and love, Kim

    Liked by 6 people

    • Hi Kim,

      Sounds like you were lying witness to scenes similar to my own, though I wasn’t inspired by dogs on this end, but the idea of a herd of buffalo moving across the prairie– like you’d see at Yellowstone or something. Somehow one thought led to another, and I was thinking of the breath twinkling on and off all across the field… I like the concept of a world mandala, too… Certainly it is like that in many ways– a movement that inspires us and reminds us…

      Peace and love returned,
      Stay warm!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • I saw the buffalo in Custer state park, what a mighty and magnificent sight, although it was a hundred degrees of so, no frosted breath, but young calves with their family…memories we carry with….peace and love, K

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Such beauty in your words dear Michael as the world spins as one.. One in breath and one out breath… I like to think as the trees exhale we inhale, we are One..
    Loved your perspective given here Michael, and how the snow and cold weather are merging our thoughts within that breath..
    Only last evening as I couldn’t sleep out came my journal and a poem was created called the snow walk.. In it I reflected upon the billowing breath…

    Yes we keep wondering who we are? And yet as you so eloquently point out we are one and the same.. All that is and all that was and all that is to come.. 🙂
    A never ending circle .. The snake eating it’s tail…
    In love and Gratitide.. May we all soon breathe in Unison.. ❤

    Liked by 6 people

    • Hi Sue,

      I like the thought about the trees and our breath being inter-related. I remember learning about that relationship when I was a child. You can tell how quickly this world projects its rules onto us, because my question was how come the oxygen never ran out! Then when I heard about the rain forests I worried we’d all be suffocating in a few decades. I don’t think adults realize the way a child’s open mind works– it’s like the difference between a person who drinks a few six packs of sensationalism a day, compared to a person having their first sip of it… How much uncertainty comes from these moments of being so impressionable, so trusting…?

      May we all breathe in Unison, I agree… 🙂
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Magnificent post! When I meditated this morning I was thinking of Einstein, and trying to picture the connection between every living being. I was having trouble with it, my mind kept taking the reins and wandering off. Then I turn on my computer and find your post and there it all is. I think I’ll go out and take pictures of breath pluming out in the very cold air today. 🙂 It suggests a painting to me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Melissa,

      I can’t wait to see that painting! I love to think on Einstein’s ideas, too. I had the opportunity once to interview a physicist named Mendel Sachs– he actually invited me into his living room. I was a fan of his papers about Einstein. I think in the physics community he may be considered either on the fringe (who isn’t in that world!?) or an old fuddy-duddy or something. But anyway, what I liked was the insights he brought into Einstein’s thinking– the way he described Einstein beginning with the idea that if something truly happened, then anyone in any point of reference should somehow be able to agree on that happening. So, his work was at least in part the realization that the only way for truth to be true, is if we learn to translate our perspectives. If we use the right translations, we can all agree on what we saw… I always found that fascinating, and universally applicable, too!

      Blessings
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • How neat that must have been, to interview him! Of all my college courses I think I liked Physics most of all for the beautiful mind-puzzles. The thing artists discover is that no two people will ever see the same happening the same way. I guess that means I disagree with him on that point, which makes me nervous as I’m sure I’m wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Melissa,

          That’s a really interesting point. Obviously Einstein was speaking about things we can measure and quantify, not qualia such as impressions, subtle interpretations we experience, or the milieux of feeling states that arise for us individually in the presence of phenomena. But I might suggest that if two artists were to truly translate their vantage points, they would perhaps agree… To truly translate such states would be, for me, to become the other person for a moment, and see the world through their eyes, through their history and desire, and even perhaps with an understanding of all that is unspoken and nascent within them. Not saying we can do that easily, but if we could then I think Einstein’s idea might hold up…

          But the fact that we can’t easily do that suggests to me a way in which subjectivity and objectivity are inter-related somehow. If you “add up” the views of all the artists, you might end up with an incredible, multi-dimensional wholeness that starts to approximate what is really alive in these moments. We don’t have that. We just each have our own views and sensations that we bring to bear. But that’s because we don’t have all the information. We don’t have the information of all the other people who are bearing witness. In Einstein’s work, you must have sufficient information to make the translation, so I’m just imagining that complexity is a way of creating diverse experiences and points-of-view out of that which is ultimately universal and shared…

          That incredible beauty we can just catch glimpses of is what we might agree upon, if only we could see in that way: through all the angles at once. That we cannot enables differentiation and exploration, diversity and opportunity. But would we have that if what were ultimately true wasn’t there…? 🙂

          I’m rambling… A very interesting meditation you have started me on…

          Peace
          Michael

          Liked by 2 people

          • Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

            There is this technique in photography that I would like to learn someday. You have to have all kinds of expensive photoshop software to do it, but it reminds me of what you are talking about here. You take a bunch of pictures of the same thing. Let me back up. In macro-photography, it is hard to get a very large depth of field. So you take a bunch of pictures and stack them in photoshop, and you come up with one clear photograph taken from many angles, at different focus points. Very cool.

            Liked by 2 people

            • That sounds very neat indeed, Mary, and very apropos. Let me know if you have any example links! I’d be interested to see how that ends up looking. This all reminds me of your blog post of a few months ago on perspectives…

              Peace
              Michael

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    Oh wow…the Oneness of it all. Here and there and everywhere at once, the breath. One breath, breathing us as we breathe it. Rising and falling with the waves, moving everywhere with the tides, “the shorelines of our silence erode and become fluid.” “We have already been deposited in endless glaciers of rock, and they are slowly dissolving into the water.” As we breathe and shake it loose, and get out of the way of our own Love to blend into the circles in circles, there is where we find peace. In the breath, in the waves, in the particles of sand…everywhere, all together as One.

    This is so enlightened, Michael, if you will excuse me I need to go meditate with my breath….

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Mary,

      There is definitely a peace found in dissolving into the wholeness of it… of us… of this… It’s one of those paradoxes I think– when we taste true peace, we experience this joyful dissolution… and when we resist the natural and joyful dissolution, we struggle to remain at peace. It makes kind of a circle, doesn’t it? Ha! We lose touch with this throughout the day, as squares and trapezoids get fired across our bow, but it’s always a beautiful moment to look up and recover this vantage point at the center of it all…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This post is beautiful and eloquently breathed Michael. You clearly are listening to the breath whisper the call to love, stirring and mixing with the breath of life. Thanks for listening and moving pen so harmonized.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Sublime!
    “When we stop seeking, this is what we find: the world is breathing us. And we are breathing the world.” This!
    “We keep wondering what we mean and what we can be, when what we can be was already given.” And this!
    “I think it takes a while to learn that loving isn’t a skill we learn– that no one can be more or less loving. We can only get out of the way.” And this!
    Thank you for reminding me, in this moment, to just breathe.
    much love
    Alison

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Alison,

      I love to do me some reminding! It reminds me at the same time. Thank you for your loving and joyous response. You picked some of my favorite lines. It all seems so obvious, and yet we just keep discovering the depth of it. It just keeps going… It just keeps getting richer…

      Love
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  7. these words, Michael
    brought me back to
    before the Big Breath,
    comforted past Bad Breath
    lingering at the eternal,
    organic, loving, gift
    interchanged by us
    all 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • Wonderful, David! We are the mints that have been placed into the Big Bad Breath! We are dissolving into our beginning, and undoing so much foul misperception along the way. And loving kindness is the daily brushing and flossing we do. This is one of those moments where you don’t quite know if Bad means Good, or Bad means Bad, or we’re even qualified to make such distinctions… 🙂

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  8. A part of me just feels I should say ‘sensational’ then reverently depart Michael, though that is only half the story given you reach far beyond the sensorial here. I am truly delighting in reading your prose workings, as already mentioned to you, and feel they allow your richly endowed philosophical side to stretch out, to reach out, or should I say ‘uncoil’? H ❤

    Liked by 6 people

    • Hello H,

      I have many parts, too. Thank you for your enthusiasm. I’m thinking of spending more time with this style in the coming year. It’s a nice uncoiling as you say. Ha! It is interesting how different approaches bring out different parts. Creativity is good like that. Maybe you will try some poems…?

      Reverence is the right word for this feeling, though. That’s the feeling exactly. A softening into it. A gentle welcoming of all that it holds.

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  9. A beautiful piece again!
    We can only get out of the way and keep breathing in synchrony with the breath that is breathing us. So well put.
    Much breath,
    Karin

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Karin. I was really inspired by the idea of our breathing turned inside out, like the sky is one big organism pushing in and out of us. We are the flowering of the sky’s vine. Somehow the image of that struck me, and helped to induce that feeling of unity…

      Happy breathing!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  10. footloosedon says

    Wowsers, as Joe E. Brown might say if he was still around. What beautiful imagery Michael.
    I particularly liked the lines:
    “when we are at peace we understand that it is the nature of our being to erode bit-by-bit until we mix with everything, touch everything, and mingle with every shore.”
    Here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico the days are warm and sunny, and the nights are clear and cold. Just right for seeing my breath and being reminded of your wise words.

    Much love as always,

    Don

    Liked by 3 people

    • It sounds lovely over there, Don. I did a quick look up of San Miguel de Allende, and it looks like a great place to visit. I will be looking forward to the words and images you guys discover in that place. And thank you for the compliment courtesy of the way back machine. I was inspired by the Joe E. Brown moment…! Carry me with you there. I have been working on this novel that I’m ill prepared to discuss, but chunks of it take place in Mexico, so I’ll be very much looking forward to your on-site reporting!

      Love to you also,
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  11. moonskittles says

    I liked the idea of “world building”. More than often we are quick to judge, but not as fast to build. Great reminder for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Dajena! I’m glad it didn’t conjure up too many images of science fiction and terra-forming and all of that. I was literally thinking of how subtle inflections of our thinking build over time into the very fabric of our experience… Which is why, as you say, it is good to be reminded and think of these things once in a while. So we can return to the joyous feeling that comes when we’re not judging it all…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I love all of your work, but this is undoubtedly one of my favorites. I will be sharing it (ironically) in a sort of selfish way– not only do I want to share these expansive, beautiful words so that others can enjoy them, but I want to be able to read them back to myself whenever I need them.

    Peace and love,
    RJ

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much, RJ! I really appreciate it. I was excited to read on your page that you read some of your work at a poetry gathering. I have read just a few times, but always found it enjoyable to encounter other writers and to be seen and heard as well as to be inspired by what others are doing. I love your work, too.

      Peace and love to you also,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I enjoyed the rhythm of this beautiful dance. Circles inside of circles inside of circles…. and I didn’t even get dizzy, just flowed, smiling.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! Good one. You must have been practicing your Sufi whirling beforehand… which I didn’t even think about until now. Hafiz must have snuck into this one, too! So nice to just flow and smile… I often wonder, when I get back to that, what it was that momentarily seemed worth eclipsing that perfection…

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  14. This magic writing about breath completely took my breath away. 🙂 Beautiful rippling circles. We spent the weekend with lambs, chickens, baby cows and horses, and as I stood there feeling the breath of the horses on my frozen hand, it was for a moment really difficult to distinguish where one end and where one begins.
    I loved your line of “nature of our being to erode bit-by-bit until we mix with everything, touch everything, and mingle with every shore”. That is the beauty of going through life and perhaphs passing through to the more advanced stages, to eventually touch everything.
    Thank you for sharing this work,
    Warmth and peace, 🙂
    Kristina

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Kristina! I like your moment with the horse– the way sometimes the boundaries are truly unclear and we see through an opening. I also am coming to understand the beauty you describe, and I think as we move through experience we do increasingly become able to access these places… if we’re paying attention or seeking to do so… not sure what the exact alchemy is that draws us to them in the first place, but it is beautiful once we’re immersed in it. Particularly when we’re able to share the experience with others… kids, baby cows, clouds, the planet…

      Peace to you also,
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Beautiful piece, my friend. Loved the synchronicity of the breath. The antidote to striving for love, which is already there. Yes, to simply get out of the way. The always renewing task of a life time, but always well worth the quieting effort. Thank you for this piece.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Noelle. I like the thought of the breath being the antidote for striving. That’s really an antidote we need, isn’t it? It’s true though– the breath really pulls us into the present, into the dynamic rhythms of being, of living in circles… And I agree it is always renewing, and always present. The breath is our connection to so much…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  16. I would say the greatest spiritual understanding I’ve come to in the last five years is that striving truly is our biggest problem. Allowing, letting go, being present, mindful, unhurried are so counter to our “DO IT” society. I’m a life coach and that’s a big part of the training. I find I spend most of my time with clients trying to get them to unwind from this. Be with themselves. Love themselves and so much of what they seek simply finds them.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I resonate strongly with this notion, Noelle. There are many ways to say it, but when our starting point is that something is missing and must be found, that is the experience we end up having isn’t it. A really big part of A Course of Love, which is my “go to” source of inspirational material at this stage of my journey, is the idea of accepting that we are complete right now. So that we can shift out of approaches founded on “learning”… and come into the fullness of the experience of who we already are. It’s a really interesting topic. I catch little glimpses of how the unwinding opens so much up…

      Thank you for sharing this.
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  17. Love ACIM and big fan of Abraham-Hicks, too. We are enough. Right now, we are enough. I feel like I could repeat that phrase every day for a year and still be learning what that means. I do find I’ve gotten to a point where looking for the answers elsewhere, in some form of “efforting” has just vanished from me. I don’t want to live that life. I think that’s why I loved this piece so much. Really spoke to that part of me that just wants to sit back and breathe more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Noelle,

      I think we are on a similar wavelength. Other than picking up ACOL from time to time because I love to be inspired by the words, I don’t find myself seeking or efforting as much. It is interesting to me how coming home to ourselves opens up so many other places and avenues for connection and expression– but not through planning or efforting really. There’s a knowing of what one desires to do or be next– sitting and looking out the window, or dashing off to the forest, or running for political office. Whatever it is, it’s just what’s next. It’s not the thing that is going to make us whole…

      I have gotten a copy of your book and am really enjoying it. You are a gifted writer and perhaps most importantly the “content” you bring forth is unique and compelling. I look forward to writing a review when I’ve completed it!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh so lovely you are enjoying the read. Gives me great peace to hear that. Also completely loved your note about “what’s next”. I really do feel that sinking in. This letting go of the “Big Plan” and settling into the subtleties of each moment. Feeling more than thinking my way into each day. Finding things just sort of present themselves and when I’m mindful and aware I simply see them and act upon them. They can be anything from which cheese at the grocer calls me to it, to an impulse to change my course on my way to work. It really is living in the mystery, I think. What’s next, indeed….

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow! Just WOW! The last paragraph gave me chills and,

    “to erode bit-by-bit until we mix with everything, touch everything, and mingle with every shore. Our concentration is a gradient without a boundary– a swirling, scattering pattern of breathing. We are loci of a swaying proximity to everything.”

    Ahhhhhh!!! Brilliant work my friend…bravo!! ♡

    Liked by 3 people

  19. This is breathtakingly beautiful, Michael. Just exquisite! I am with Hariod again on these pieces. I think them the best of everything I have read of yours. Love the thoughts expressed here so much! Congratulations on this work, Michael! xx ellen

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you very much, Ellen! I appreciate the feedback. It is great to know what pieces different people like and why.

      Sending loving thoughts your way–
      Michael

      Like

  20. What a dynamic post Michael… Breathing in life and life breathing us… That’s all there is… Our foundation upon which we each build our castle and playful life… Are you good with writing your post on the 2nd feb… About where you find yourself now… Love to you xx barbara

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thanks for tracking me down! Yes, I’ll take the 2nd. And try to figure out where it is that I find myself! Being breathed into something else altogether! Ha! Love to you, too.

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Such gorgeous and evocative words. These past few months I’ve been having a relationship with breath like I’ve never before (due to my extensive pranayam ‘homework’ for yoga training). Most of my life I’ve been a shallow or no-breather. I’d tune out in yoga classes when they’d start talking about the breath. It bored me and sometimes literally hurt. I just couldn’t see how powerful the breath could be…and now I see it is everything. Thank you for this beautiful post. Aleya

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Aleya… the breath is amazing. I’m undoubtedly a shallow breather myself, but still the breath is always close to me. It is an image always coming to me when I sit to write, or to try and communicate the glimpses we have of grace. Without access to these images and experiences of my own breath, what do I have!? It is everything– my point of entry to all that I learn and behold. I can imagine your yoga training is introducing you to entirely new levels of breathing. And I can understand the part about being bored and hurting. It is when we cultivate that deep desire to be present, that the breath emerges as our truest friend…

      Blessings
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  22. Dear Michael – What a delight it has been to luxuriate in your gentle words on this grim February morning. They are a much-needed balm. I’ve been entangled in a dance with the breath, trying to let go and allow it to lead me for once. Knowing that my struggle is not unique is so very helpful. Thank you. –Julie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Julie, I’m glad these words soothed in such a way. I think when we are having difficulty, it always feels like we’re in it alone, and then when we realize the struggle we face isn’t as unique as we thought, just the sensation of that starts to soften the whole experience. We just can’t carry it in quite the same way anymore, once we know we’re not beset with challenges that are utterly unique and intractable.

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  23. Dear Michael, I loved this. Sometimes, leaving a comment is difficult, because I quite simply loved what you wrote and I got lost in it and I can’t always say why…”and then sometimes we like to think otherwise”. I am caught up on the otherwiseness of this and it is delicious. Peace bro’, Harlon

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi Harlon,

    Thanks for sharing your heartfelt response. Sometimes the most profound moments of peace that fly past don’t have any reasons at all… We just get taken over by something wordless. I know the feeling, and the otherwise of it… Very happy to share such open spaces with you…

    Peace to you, too!
    Michael

    Like

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