Much of our life is lived in the past, which often catapults us into anxiety of an unknown future, based on what we know in the past. If the past seems bleak, the future will seem more so, which leaves the present not having a chance. Our past invades our present in such common ways, we often do not recognize, it is the past.
The past creeps in when we read the newspaper of events that have already happened and most television programs are recorded. Then while sharing conversations with people, we catch up after days and weeks have passed by since we last saw one another. It is usually after we catch up about happenings and feelings, that we return to the present, maybe dabbling into the future. This is the ebb and flow of going, from the past to the present, then to the future and so on. Flowing in and out, as our breath moves through and around our bodies.
This perhaps is the reason our breath is used most often to connect us to the present moment. Our breath enters and exits our body, usually without us even thinking about the process. If we focus our intention on our breath, the rising and lowering of our abdomen, soon as we inhale and exhale our breath, we can begin notice a softening in soften our bellies. This allows the focus to be in the present moment, “I am breathing in. I am breathing out”. There can be impromptu moments when we notice our breath coming and going, just as there can be moments when we set aside time to be in the present as we breathe.
Similarly as we notice our breath, we can notice the seasons coming and going. One preparing for the next as cycles continue. The season we are in now, is preparing us to embrace winter. The season of advent, holds the possibility for us to become stuck in the past. The idea of the oncoming cold and darkness can be intimidating. Our breathing can be hurried, labored and even shallow, as we move through the weeks leading to Christmas and a new calendar year. There is often the sense to overcoming of past holiday hurts, the holidays with limitations, to recreate the perfect holiday or maybe a somber noticing of people who have left our circles. There is so much nostalgia with the holiday seasons, that we see people busying themselves, almost in a way to leap into the future, while holding tight to the past, often missing the beauty we have right now.
All of this, can make it easy for us to lose sight of the seasons as we ebb from autumn and flow into winter. The season of Advent offers the reminders of hope, joy, peace, love and the light that already exists inside of us, as we move into the darkness of winter. There is a purposeful action in these days and weeks, whether we are lighting a Menorah, Yule Log or Advent Wreath. Each offers an active reminder of our light, when times ahead can look dim. We can see tangibly, that we have the ability to activate our light and connect to our breath in prayer.
Our breath can help fuel that light, just as a bellows fuels a fire. It is the action to the awareness of our own ability to carry light. We have light, even if someone is there to help us until we can hold our own light. Returning to our breath and finding ways to nurture our spiritual path is always fruitful, whether through meditation, Centering Prayer or Spiritual Direction. Each allows us to set aside time in our schedule, giving permission to focus on our present moment. Our present moment allows us to be fully engaged, breathing in and breathing out life, flowing freely and gently through our days. Holding the awareness of a constantly shifting tide, as our light brightens with each breath.