Poosh goes the little oxygen tank. Every three seconds, a little burst of air forced through the clear plastic tubes running around his ears and under his nose.
I am sitting in the chapel of Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. After the long chanting of Psalms we rest in silence. That’s when I really begin to hear the poosh, pause, and then again poosh. It is Brother Ronald’s oxygen tank. He sits with the other monks, all habited in white robes, one with the cowl up against the morning chill and covering his head. I am with the guests sitting out in the congregation.
At first, honestly, I am slightly annoyed. I love sitting in stillness, but I struggle to relax, anticipating the next micro-burst of oxygen quietly popping the envelope of silence. Soon, however, my respiration slows and without intending to, I begin to breathe with the rhythm of Brother Ronald. I imagine pure oxygen filling my nostrils too. I breathe in a little deeper, taking in all the richness my lungs can hold. This is truly in-spiration, swooshing us back to the birth of creation.
“Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7).
After a time of course the rhythm fades. (If you’ve ever tried to concentrate on your breathing, you know that at some point your mind wanders and—thank God—your lungs keep on filling and collapsing without a single thought from you.) But when the monks in the choir stand, signaling the end of the silence, I exhale one more prayer. “Thank you, Brother Ronald, for letting me breathe with you.”
Lida Ward says
Oh how we take breathing for granted! It is such a powerful tool that is often ignored…and the beautiful thing is that it is always with us. We just need to slow down and pay attention to it. So glad you are finding time for some conscious breathing (and reminding me to do the same!). Thanks, David.
David Anderson says
You know the gift and beauty of breath, I know. BLess you.
Thanks for being real David: the slight annoyance at the monk’s breathing while you were trying to breathe. On my way upstairse to do some breathing too. Thanks for the impetus. I needed it.
For me, your experience was about breathing, sure, but even more about your union with with Brother Ronald, or maybe even with God. “Breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life anew.”
David Anderson says
“Breathe on me, breath of God.” Love that hymn!
Ginny Lovas says
Breath on my Breath of God – one of my favorites as well! Ginny
Karen Dewar says
Brother Ronald was a thoughtful conversationalist when my girls and I went to Holy Cross. His quiet dignity was only surpassed by the twinkle in his eye.