Buddy Breathing

Interlude: Rêverie, L. 68: Reverie, performed by François-Joël Thiollier, on the Debussy: Clair de lune and Other Piano Favorites album

It’s the season of travel, for ourselves, our families, and the families who vacation in our beautiful seaside home, so I’d like to start with a prayer.

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Book of Common Prayer]

Some years back we used to go to Jamaica on vacation, and one of my favorite  things was to go snorkeling, twice a day when I could, out on the reef. I’d hear from the guides that diving was even better for seeing wildlife, but I couldn’t get my head around breathing out of a can.  It didn’t take long though, and one year, I gathered my courage, and got certified. I learned all the safety techniques,clearing a mask full of water, exhaling a tiny stream of air during your ascent, buddy  breathing, where two people share one person’s tank, along with the basics — stay with a buddy, slow steady breathing, and keep an eye on the gauge showing the level of air in your tank. All the lessons paid off.  I was confident, and I could enjoy watching fish, and looking for eels and seahorses, in much deeper, quieter waters.

Inhale, exhale.

A few years after I was certified,we went to a location where the guides had seen some turtles hanging out. I hadn’t seen one before, so I was thrilled when soon after we got down to our appointed depth, I spotted a turtle. I began to follow it.  It was amazing: Right. There. So graceful. After a few minutes, it was definitely moving away from the area, so I stopped swimming, and checked my air. Oops. In my excitement, I had pulled down more air than I should, and my air was low. No worries.  I found one of the guides, showed him my gauge, and we buddy-breathed on his tank, back to the surface. I was still super excited about swimming with the turtle, but more than a little embarrassed. Forgot to breathe slowly, forget to keep an eye on my gauge,  and didn’t stay with my buddy. Not good.

But back to meditation.  We may not be breathing from a can, but we are diving, in a way, intentionally immersing ourselves in the sea of God’s presence.

When we meditate, our thoughts can be busy chatter, but sometimes they can be beautiful daydreams, too, leading your mind away from your buddy, your mantra, and away from the rhythm of your breath. You forget, and swim along, enjoying yourself. 

What can you do?  Gently bring yourself back to your breath, and your mantra. Listen to the sound of your breath. Pay attention to your mantra, not the pretty thoughts, or busy ones or scary ones.  Keep returning to your mantra and your breath. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit, and just Be, right here and right now, here at home or wherever your travels take you.

Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on May 11, 2019.