Guest Musing by Stephen Gilbert
Convergence, Intersection, Pass-through
I walk every morning. Over the years it has become a time of meditation, then as I allowed my imagination to deepen, it became my time of devoted connection to the One and the many.
This morning as I headed out, I got into a rhythm of breathing and pace: four strides to an in-breath, four strides to an out-breath. This felt so good, even with smoky air! Filling my lungs fully and exhaling completely with the pace of my walking put me into a trance-like state. A sentence from Creation of the New came to mind: “To breathe is to be spiritual.”
This morning, in this state, my imagination kicked in. To breathe is to be spiritual. I imagined, as I walked, the passage of air into and out of my body, allowing it to flow in my nose, into my lungs and abdomen, flowing down around my bowels. The exhale flowed up the course of my spine and out the top of my head, where it formed a kind of wake as I walked, spreading out behind me, as in a rearview mirror, touching everything. This felt invigorating! I began to think about the breath: how is this being spiritual?
I saw that breath IS giving and receiving as one. I saw that this was a fundamental connection between the seen and unseen, the continual exchange of all that is with itself, a dialog. I listened to this dialog. The word tonglen arose.
I have used the Buddhist idea of tonglen before in my work with bereavement. This familiarity became a connection with the breath for me as I walked.
Here in California, the land is burning. People are in fear and grief, and lives have been upended. I began to inhale the smoke from all those fires. The smoke and flames became the representation of all the suffering of all souls affected, of all that has suddenly changed.
At first, there was a feeling of “this is terrible; this shouldn’t be happening” energy. As I noticed that, I understood this energy to be a reflection of the separated self, and that in truth, nothing has gone wrong. Upon the out-breath, I saw spreading out behind me a blanket (a comforter?) of peace; I saw the new “moving by way of peace.”
My attention was then drawn to the pass through, the transformation, the alchemy happening in this moment in me. This is tonglen. My Self is the transformer of energy. I witnessed it, experienced it. I thought, “There is such intense suffering happening, how can I breathe in the suffering without succumbing to it?” The response: “You know how to allow this energy pass-through, you’ve done it before.” Somehow, I knew this.
This state of imagination began to shift. I thought, “how can I carry this into my moment-to-moment life?” I breathe every moment. It’s there, requiring only conscious attention to allow the transformative working of my very own being.
As I consciously recognize toxic energy in some situations, I bring my attention to the breath. I breathe the sensations and feelings in and out. Here I become peaceful and easily discern whether I am the bringer of this energy in any way. If so, I do my work first.
I continue to breathe, and I imagine the energetic metamorphosis in my Self as the energy. What is real remains, what is not, does not. What is real is held, precious. What is not is simply shunted off to a remote place within the whole.
Tonglen. I can stand peaceful in any moment as I breathe in what my imagination represents as toxic energy, imagine the transformation, and then breathe out the new. Convergence, intersection, pass-through.
I can do this with what arises in each moment. This is loving whatever arises. To breathe is to be spiritual.
Steve Gilbert is a Course of Love reader who became a friend as he shared his gifts with me. This “walking and breathing meditation” is just one of them. It came to me in an ordinary email exchange! It’s so beautiful I asked if I could share this gift with you as well.
I may have another guest or two on Musings as I finish readying my next book: Memoria: The Way of the Marys for publication. Please also note (below) the event at The Center for Contemporary Mysticism. I just love everyone there and am very pleased to join these three women: Patricia Pearce, Mary Reed, Chelan Harkin and viewers next month.
Divine Wisdom: Earthly Voices
Register now for the upcoming Center for Contemporary Wisdom event: Divine Wisdom: Earthly Voices, featuring Chelan Harkin, Mari Perron, Mary Reed, and Patricia Pearce. Registration is LIVE now on the Center’s website and online (see link below.)