In the pause between breaths you will find peace. And in that peace, you will find God.
I’ve never been a particularly religious person. Like many kids, I took it seriously when adults told us what God wanted. So, I made sure that we got all of the leavened bread out of the house for Passover. That’s what our particular version of God wanted. As time went on, and my rational mind developed, I saw that many of the precepts and foundational stories of religions were internally inconsistent and just didn’t make logical sense to me.
As for God, I honestly found it pathetic when people would explain their “proofs” of why God had to exist. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t believe in God. I was quite clear with myself that I believed in God because I felt like believing in God, not because there was some mathematical or physical or even philosophical proof of God’s existence. But then again, I suffer from obsessive-compusive disorder, which can be described as an all-encompassing irrational belief system that demands fidelity to nonsensical rituals in order to save myself from a metaphysical doom. Basically, it’s a self-made religion.
But aside from membership in my one-person religion, and my scientific and rational inclinations which contradicted my OCD beliefs, I always maintained this unwavering belief in an intelligence of the Universe, which we call God. If God exists, the proof for me is not in the beauty of a butterfly or the orbits of the planets. I don’t believe that these things or anything else we perceive with our senses require intelligent design. I think they might be an inevitable result of evolution and the laws of physics. Perhaps surprisingly, though, there is proof for me that God exists. And this proof comes to me in a very internal experience, one that does not require rational thought. In fact, it requires setting aside rational, and all, thought.
I’m certainly not going to find God in the dense clutter of my thoughts, especially in the crushingly repetitive, falsely protective thoughts generated by my OCD. Instead, I can get a a glimmer of God in my brief moments of respite from thinking, when my plans, concerns, analyses and judgements are not in the way. But how does one reach such a calm mind in the midst of daily life and especially in light of a life-time of incessant thinking, worrying and daydreaming?
I have been looking for such spaces for God, and I think that a key is to look for the natural pauses in our biological and even our human cultural and planetary rhythms. Our planet is a very rhythmic entity. As I write these words, we just passed the Summer Solstice here in the northern hemisphere. It’s the time when, due to the Earth’s tilt on its axis, the sun stops rising higher and higher in the sky and will begin to rise lower and lower, as the days grow shorter as the summer progresses toward fall. Just as a pendulum swings one way and pauses to swing back the other, there is a point in time when the sun is neither on its way up nor on its way down. The seasons pause on the summer solstice. The same is true six months later at the winter solstice. Humans have also built pauses into their social rhythms, from the Sabbath in Abrahamic religions to Uposatha in Buddhism, and many other times of rest and reflection in cultures around the globe. In our own bodies, perhaps the easiest natural rhythm to observe is the breath.
Between each and every life-preserving inhale and exhale, our respiratory system pauses. I think that this is a good place to start looking for inward quietness. It is a brief time when the otherwise constant mechanics of breathing seem to be at rest. One advantage to focusing on breathing is that your body is always engaged in it, so it is always available for you to pay attention to. Can you quiet your mind for those moments between breaths? It’s a simpler challenge than picking an arbitrary period of time to clear yourself of thoughts. And this, for me, is the first step in noticing the presence of God.
In the pause between breaths you will find God.
And now for something completely different. Click the flower to proceed to a story of an illicit cupcake & my glasses: