You can read part 1 here.
Much has been written about the last breath, but not much about the first. Recently, I happened to listen to a re-broadcast of an episode of NPR’s Radiolab on “Breath.” It began with an explanation of the ingenious, miraculous first breath in which we transition from water-dwelling beings in the watery womb to air-dwelling beings outside in the world. In the water-dwelling fetus, the lungs have no function. Instead, the fetus gets its oxygen from its mother through the placenta and umbilical cord, the oxygenated blood flowing directly from the right to the left chambers of the heart through a hole — the patent foramen ovale — bypassing the lungs that in fetuses are filled with water. But in the split second of that first breath, the umbilical cord shuts down the flow of oxygenated blood and the patent foramen ovale closes, requiring that the once water-filled lungs now be filled with air. The right and left sides now forever closed off from each other, from now on, the oxygen-deprived blood that flows into the right side of the heart must be pumped out of the heart into the lungs where it is enriched with oxygen, and then returns to the left chambers of the heart where it is then pumped to every tissue in our bodies. That first breath enables the continual flow of in-breath and out-breath, for most of us, about 500 million times in our lifetimes. I will never forget that first breath of my own child as he came in to the air-breathing world. That first cry remains, and always will, the sweetest sound I have ever heard. Aware now of all that happens with that first breath, I am filled with an even deeper awe.
Continue reading “Breath, part 2 by Beth Bartlett”
By breath, by blood, by body, by spirit, we are all one.
The air that is my breath . . .is the air that you are breathing.
And the air that is your breath . . . is the air that I am breathing.
The wind rising in my breast . . .is the wind, from the east, from the west,
From the north . . . from the south; Breathing in, breathing out.
So begins singer-songwriter Sara Thomsen’s song, “By Breath,” bringing together many elements I’ve been pondering in the last several days – breath, air, wind, spirit.
Continue reading “Breath, part 1 by Beth Bartlett”
In the past two years, I began a project which I call biblical poetry. I had been doing my own translations of biblical verse based on the hieroglyphic meanings of Hebrew words. Ancient Hebrew or Semitic Early writing grew out of the hieroglyphs of Egypt. Since hieroglyphs are pictures, we are able to use the rebuses or picture puzzles to glean the original or at least older meanings of words. I have begun to see these a route to interpreting meanings from before the dawn of patriarchy. This door to understanding appeals to my religious/spiritual/feminist sensibilities. At first, I attempted to stay somewhat true to the well-known meanings as they have come down through the ages. When I began my poetry project, I broke out of that structure to reveal the more mystical/shamanic/pagan meanings that I find beneath the words. At the bottom of this post, I have links to a few of my past biblical poetry posts.
The bible is quite large, so this is an encompassing project with lots of material to explore. This month, I wanted to take a look at how the concept of beauty is treated in the bible. The word for beauty is yaphah. Yaphah can also mean miracle and wonder as well as beauty. Let’s stop for a minute to unpack that. When we think of the word beauty in our culture, the thought is generally about how someone looks (unusually a female someone). But just the Hebrew word alone broadens the meaning. If beauty is someone or something that is wondrous and has miraculous qualities than it goes well beyond cultural standards of how someone looks. If you love someone, they would be beautiful to you because they would be wondrous. Biblical usages and translations tend to focus on beauty, mostly women, sometimes cows (yep cows) and a few handsome men in the mix. But I found that yaphah doesn’t have to be a vision that relies on one’s eyes.
Continue reading “Beauty in the Heart of the Beholder by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”
Almost every day, I walk in Central Park. There are certain trees there I’ve come to know: the gnarled cherry trees by the reservoir, the bending willows and tall bald cypress by the pond, the sycamores that drop their bark each summer, the hawthorn not far from Central Park West. Lately I’ve been taking photos of the trees to try to capture their essence, their posture in the world. The trees around me feel like friends, which is what an ancient midrash (interpretation/legend) called Genesis Rabbah says about trees: that they are friends to humankind. To me, they’ve always been a central manifestation of Mother Earth.
Currently, the national parks in the United States have no staff because of the government shutdown. Some people have taken the opportunity to cut down the rare and endangered Joshua trees in the Joshua Tree National Park—just for fun, I guess, or as a trophy of some kind. Meanwhile, President Bolsonaro of Brazil recently has indicted that he wants to remove protection for the rainforest, in order to allow development. It appears that my friends the trees have enemies. Sometimes the enmity is for personal/corporate gain, and sometimes the enmity seems to have no reason at all.
Continue reading “Tree of Life: The Festival of the Trees in an Age of Treefall by Jill Hammer”
At the age of fourteen, I began to question the Mormon faith of my family. I embarked on a life long personal and scholarly quest for truth. While teaching comparative religion and philosophy, I was drawn to the work of supporting women through labor and holding compassionate space for the dying.
In my book, “Birth, Breath, and Death,” I share moving tales of birth and death while drawing on my work as a doula, hospital chaplain, and mother. I weave together these stories with philosophical reflections on truth, meaning, and Spirit.
This is an excerpt taken from the first chapter entitled “Search.”
I spent much of my early twenties traveling throughout The Middle East and India. I lost track of time gazing at an ancient copy of Homer’s Iliad at a museum in Cairo. I remember sleeping through a freezing cold night on Mt. Sinai and awakening to a brilliant sunrise over the Arabian Peninsula. I climbed the pyramids in Egypt and protested the Israeli occupation of the West Bank with Arab and Jewish women peace activists. For a year, I studied in Jerusalem. Later, I dedicated myself to the practice of meditation at an ashram in the Himalayas.
A lively mix of debate and discussion characterized my Hebrew University days. In the evenings, I worked illegally as a waitress in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Adorned in Roman attire, I served fantastic platters of Middle Eastern cuisine and performed folk songs and dance routines for photo-snapping tourists. I was nineteen and living in Jerusalem, a place saturated in religious symbolism. Known as Al-Quds in Arabic and Yerushalim in Hebrew, Jerusalem is a city renewed and ravaged due to contested paradigms of poetry and politics. Continue reading “Meditating on Oneness by Amy Wright Glenn”