Life is Breathing Us Awake


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Since the Ferguson’s Grand Jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, I’ve been reading, watching, listening. I’ve been taking in all of this information, thinking that if I just take in enough, somehow I’ll understand.

And then, I stopped. I suddenly felt so full, as if I’d eaten this huge meal and knew I needed to digest it. I’d filled myself up. And in doing so, I realized why I had writer’s block for the past few weeks.  I write from my heart, and instead I’ve been swirling in information. So, I let it all settle.

Diane Arbus, the world renowned photographer, once told her students, “You must learn not to be careful.”  I imagine they were learning how to see, how to listen to the world through the lens, and she was advising them to take risks to become the photographers they were meant to be. I see our opportunity in a similar way, here in our country.

We are learning. We must learn not to be careful…so careful we don’t enter into conversations, we don’t listen deeply to others’ stories and even listen for what is under their words so we can hear what is in our hearts. We are experiencing a huge upheaval in this country. We cannot afford to sweep it back under the rug. We must address this. And, we’re going to mess things up along the way. That I know. It’s what we do when we are learning. But we let our hearts be our guide, we can do this.

For the last twelve years, I’ve felt this internal tug, the call of the Feminine. I truly haven’t known what I’ve been doing or where it would take me. And yet, deeper than all of that doubt was the knowing that everything that was happening to me was taking me closer and closer to what is real within. And, closer and closer to a lived knowing of our interconnectedness.

The feminine holds everything, loves everyone. She doesn’t discriminate. She weaves and connects us all together. She is the weaving. As the feminine rises, as She awakens, She is trying to weave us back together…to wake us up to this beautiful, vast, numinous Mystery that is at the heart of our existence.


Then, while digesting,

Life proceeded to show me what I was really longing to know. Something Oriah Mountain Dreamer shared on Facebook led me to read this interview by Tami Simon of Sounds True with James Finley. Finley is a master of the Christian contemplative way. As I read these words from Finley, I was stunned…

“… and then the big life-changing event for me, which was a little thing- It’s one of these things: I was at the monastery, and Thomas Merton gave me permission to spend some time alone in an abandoned sheep barn, and I would go up into the loft of this abandoned sheep barn, and the doors of the barn were always open and looked out over this meadow. It was in Kentucky, it was very hot, and I was walking back and forth, saying the Psalms. The experience, to me, was that what we tend to think of as the air is literally God, that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God. There were no emotions connected with it. There were no images. It was like a matter-of-factness to the divinity of air.

I don’t know how else to say that. It was just that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God. And it was clear to me that, no matter where I would try to run from God, I’d be running away from God, in the God that I was breathing and was sustaining me. And this air, this oceanic God that I was breathing, knew me through and through and through and through as compassion, just endless compassion without boundaries. It was just-I know no words to describe it.”

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…stunned because this is exactly what I experienced in India in 2006. Walking along the river Ganges in Varanasi, I had the same experience – I was breathing in God because God was in the air – God was the air, God was everywhere. And in this experience, just after experiencing it, I used the word God to describe it, which for most of my life I had not. 

As I read James’ words, my entire body shivered with this memory, and as I looked out into my living room where I was sitting reading, I could feel that I was swimming in God…inside and out. I had the experience, again, that there was no need to run toward, or away from, God because everything is God. There was no more looking for God, or for Love, because everything is Love. Everything. Inside. Outside. No more distinction between the two.

I stood up to look out my window as the sun was beginning to rise over the city. Everything outside my window was God, and not the God that I learned as a child – a man on a throne – but God as Life. Inside and outside, everything was God.

I suddenly felt compelled to go outside, to walk to the park to see the sun rise…to stand at the top of the steps to witness it.

Within minutes,

Dec0114Sunrise01I was standing atop the many steps as the sun began to peek through. I recalled what Oriah shared:

What would it look like to give my heart/myself away
in love with every word, every sentence, every story?”

And, as I stood watching this sunrise unfold over the next
fifteen minutes, I could feel how the Mystery, this Great Love, was giving itself away, offering itself as this gift of a sunrise.

With each breath, I was offered this gift. 

Everything given. Everything offered completely, given away completely.

No taking was necessary on my part, because it was, and always is, given, offered completely, wholly, holy.

I walked to the local cafe for tea, and sat outside on the bench watching people pass by, and the most remarkable thing happened, but not remarkable at all, really. My heart was blown open and as I looked out my eyes I knew God was watching the world through my eyes. I could feel the love of Life for Life, for each person, each being, each particle, each cell. There were no fireworks, no bells and whistles. There was only Love for everything being witnessed. There was no me, no them, no separation, yet there was still my humanness experiencing this profound Love for everything I was taking in from this spot on this bench.

“Infinite Love that gives itself away with every breath.” 

Infinite Love being given with every breath.

“The experience, to me, was that what we tend to think of as the air is literally God, that I was walking back and forth through God, breathing God.”  

Infinite Love being received with every breath.

And then, two days after this profound experience, I heard the news, and saw the words, over and over and over,

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“I can’t breathe.”


We are both givers of this Infinite Love and receivers of this Infinite Love.

And yet, we learn to choke this Divine breath from another.

We learn to leave each other, dying, alone.

Life doesn’t give itself away to only some. Life gives itself away to each one of us, to every being, to all of Life.

The path of the sacred heart, the path of Love, is not about not being angry. Anger is the fuel for change. Anger that rises up out of the depths of this great Love that breathes us is one of the most powerful catalysts for creativity if we feel it within ourselves and listen for what it underneath it. It can be the most powerful creative impulse. I have been feeling mine and I know it is fuel to help us make change in the world. 

I know of one powerful being who threw a righteous fury in a temple when He could no longer take the injustice.

How do we move forward?

As Oriah wrote,

“What would it look like to give my heart/myself away in love” with every choice I make?

And these words from my good friend, Megan McFeely, who recently wrote this powerful piece:

“I believe we are all empowered…our work is right inside us. An evolutionary impulse is living through us because life demands freedom for all. It is our birthright and we have the power to act.”

“Life demands freedom for all. It is our birthright and we have the power to act.”

This IS ‘an evolutionary impulse’. Life is trying to weave us back together.  

Life is breathing us awake.

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5 Replies to “Life is Breathing Us Awake”

  1. Oh! I’m so glad I found this post tonight. I’ve been struggling so much with these events, feeling hopeless, heartbroken, impotent. But I’ve been writing and posting, even sharing what I’ve written in my “real” world, which is unusual for me. This post reminds me that I’m still breathing, and I need to exhale my words. Silly phrase, maybe. I love this so much Julie. I’m going to find the time to click on every link and read deeply with discernment.

  2. Julie, firstly thank you, thank you for your writing, your heart, and this powerful piece. I know this will resonate with so many others, as it did me. Your experience in India and especially in the coffee shop reminded me of Merton’s epiphany experience in Louisville, Kentucky when he was suddenly overtaken by love for every person on the street. He said, why can’t they see they are all shining like the sun?

    You set such a good example of contemplation before writing and acting. In my photography workshops, I’m asking participants to pause and focus before connecting. This year, I used the breath to illustrate this. When we pause, we go inside (breathe in), then focus on the essence, then breathe out (connect/act/click the shutter). We are being transformed (and transforming) with every breath, just as you said.

    There is so much more that I’ll be digesting from this piece.

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