TO FEEL A BREATH drawn in deep, expanding your lungs and life in the realization that that one, too, was needed and happened much without your doing, and then to let go thankfully: that is rest, stillness and practice of Sabbath.
All too often our breaths grow shallow, uncountable in their rapid frequency, as we take more than we should out of day. We live exhausted, overworked by our own hand, somehow reaching for a space of happiness, a point of satisfaction and significance - that all that we do is meaningful and filling, but still, so many of us grow more restless and anxious and tired, never getting a step closer to what’s always just right there. We’re aimed in the wrong way, our daily sight set a few degrees off of true.
As summer draws to an end, I have been diving into rest and Sabbath more because I, too, feel the thin and have lived here too long. The strain put on my day - in work demands, self expectations, relationships and those I love most - was as drowning. I once read of a sort of euphoria that overtakes the body in drowning. As water is drawn into the lungs blocking gas exchange in delicate tissues and triggers the airway to seal closed. The chest burns as water travels down the airway and then a sort of tranquil sensation due to a lack of oxygen in the brain. This isn’t too far off from the feeling I sensed in parts of my day - a drowning in too much activity, propped up by caffeine, and a lack of breathing. More so, of rest.
Here, six days into detox and caffeine free, my sleep is more indigenous to my design. The first five were hell filled with constant irritability and headaches and weariness uncovered and allowed.
Two thoughts about Sabbath: it must be found in moments daily, and still, it must involve a singular, set apart day. Each day, I’m learning to find the stillness the Psalmist proclaimed leads to God, acknowledging God as he is and ever shall be, and there is one day now when rest rules the day in honor of God’s ever giving providence in my life.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)
As in the flowing lines of poet-farmer, Wendell Berry, so eloquently lead, “and you are where breathing is prayer,” might it be that our silence found causes us to know God for all he is to become to us.
Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind's
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks,
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer.
Sabbaths, VI, by Wendell Berry