Saturday, June 25, 2016

Breath and Heart

Even though our playing it so much used to drive Mama crazy, I'm pretty sure she was the one who taught me to play "Heart and Soul" on the piano. She and I used to play it as a duet, and later my sister and I would play it. What child learns to play piano without learning to play "Heart and Soul"?

Tonight I am thinking more about heart and breath, however, as my mom's heart rate gets slower and her breathing more slow and difficult. It is hard to witness, and yet I would not want to not be here for this time.

Tonight my aunt and I were marveling at the heart, how it works so well most of the time, and how it does everything it does without any of our own power or control. Not one of us creates our own heart or starts it beating.

I heard an author say recently that we are a gift given to ourselves. The idea that we are all about independence and choice and creating our own meaning is an illusion, or perhaps a delusion. We do not bring ourselves into existence, we do not give ourselves the amazing ability to be alive and to experience all the many parts of life that we experience.

Tonight reminded me of something I've been reading from Becoming a Healing Presence, by Albert Rossi, a psychologist. In one part he writes,

Awareness of our breathing opens a door to awareness of the presence of God, the giver of breath, and it is the very voice of God, guiding and encouraging us.

Not everyone believes that. And yet there is something very powerful about simply paying attention to our own breath and the wonder of it, and contemplating ourselves as receivers, as wholly dependent on a force beyond ourselves, outside ourselves, that brought us into existence.

No one, I hope, can witness their mother dying and continue to think of themselves as independent, as self-made, as autonomous, the way Western thinking would have us think. Not one of us would be here without a mother and a father. And our mothers and fathers had mothers and fathers, and on and on and on. Our very breath can remind us of how connected we are to all those who went before us, and for many of us, that means realizing our connection to "the giver of breath."

Other excerpts from the book that strike me as my mother is losing her breath, as her heart moves closer to the end of its physical work, are below. They strike at the heart of neo-gnostic thinking that would divide the physical and spiritual.

Tonight a group of us sang around Mama's hospice bed for 30-45 minutes, hymns from the hymnbook used in the church where we grew up. More than one song spoke of resurrection, that strange Christian belief that has been so much a part of my thinking for so long that to me it seems strange not to believe that breath and heart, spirit and body, will be reunited one day, that we will be alive again together in some new but also very familiar way.

It was hard to leave tonight, wondering if I will hear her breathing again in the morning. But no matter what people may say and think about orthodox Christians these days (or whatever they've said and thought for 2,000 years), I've seen over and over again, and have experienced over and over again, that the words written to the Thessalonians close to 2,000 years ago, are true--that "we do not grieve as others do who have no hope." We have great and beautiful hope.

"Within the heart is the antenna for the voice of God."

We grieve, of course, and we have great and beautiful hope.


Lucy said...

A beautiful meditation at a precious time.

I think being close to one's parent's death, if you can be, is important. I think perhaps for me it left me with a little less inner conflict about the element of relief I felt, among other things, when my mum was at peace at last. Not altogether without conflict, but with a little less.

Take care, we still hope to see you before too long.

John W Moore said...

Thank you, Sheila. Blessings.