Be still and know: meditation on a breathing meditation

It’s been sixteen days since I published my advance review of J. Dana Trent’s #OneBreathBook (One Breath at a Time: A Skeptic’s Guide to Christian Meditation, available for pre-order from Upper Room Books). Sixteen days later, I’ve just finished my first eight-day cycle of Breath meditations. Fortunately, Dana is generous with both permission and forgiveness, so I will continue at my own erratic pace into the next octave, Centering; but I will be reluctant to leave breathing behind, as it were.

In the maturing days of the breathing meditations, I found myself drawn to that space which opens up between slow breaths. After each breath is complete, there is a pause, in which nothing at all happens. My body is sated with breath, for now; in a moment, it will open up for more, reach out of its own accord, but in that present pause, there is stillness, silence, a full and sufficient absence.

For the space of a day or two, it reminded me of giving birth to my son. Between the contractions of second stage labour, when push came to rest, while all about me were carrying on with encouragement and activity, my child and I knew a secret internal stillness, in which we contemplated the transition from one level of living to another, and enjoyed together the final moments of peace before a new beginning would crash upon us.

Another day, it made me think of gills, and of wings, of metamorphosis, as though the moment of breathless life could last forever, as though there were the possibility, in that pause, that instead of an automatic response my body would decide that it no longer needed lungs, that a whole new way of being was open to it, that we would rise together as something new, and unheard of.

Then, of course, unbreathing carries intimations of mortality.

in the pit dimension,
opening up unseen between
inane thoughts of profundity,
the beat of blood dancing
seedily, sliding down 
untidily; every
ten seconds,

after every


… between each breath,
a little death,
still as the grave
face of God

“Be still, and know that I am God.” I revel in that moment of un/being: the stillness of eternity.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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