Thursday, November 13, 2014

breathe in winter

Wage Peace 

by Judyth Hill

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings
and flocks of redwing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children
and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen
and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.

Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.

Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don't wait another minute.

 {more about Judyth Hill}

On her website, Hill talks about how the poem came into being, soon after she'd heard about the two towers being hit on 9-11. She'd been reading Pema Chodron's book, When Things Fall Apart, and about the practice of Tonglen. I've talked about both here. In this type of meditation, you are strong enough to breathe in the suffering of the world, and to breathe out your own inner peace. 

I've been thinking about breathing quite a lot this past week, mainly because of my cold, and that kind of altered breathing. I've still been out walking the dog, and when I'm outside, this is when my breathing has been the most clear. 

I've been breathing in winter and its particular light, particular beauty and breathing out whatever darknesses I've been carrying. 

Much like the meditation described below: 

"One of the oldest mediation exercises is a simple breathing exercise. The morning is a good time to do this. You simply breathe the light into you. You imagine a bright light over your head. Then visually, using your breath, you bring that light slowly down through the body. Through your head, neck, shoulders, stomach, legs and out through your feet. You can imagine a refreshing light. This will fill your body with a sense of lightness. When you breathe out slowly, imagine that you are breathing out the darkness. Clods of heavy charcoal sadness can leave your soul on the outward breath."

~ John O'Donohue, from Four Elements

Winter is a difficult season, and you will most often hear people talk about what they don't like about it. The dangerous driving, the snow and ice to clear from sidewalks, the brutal cold, not to mention the expense of the season - the heating bill goes up, the car must be maintained, you need proper gear to be outdoors, etc. All true.

But what happens when you can breathe winter in, along with the light? 

As I was walking through the fields this past week, I was breathing in the clean snow, the frost. Sometimes the clear blue sky, at others, the low grey sky. The cold air feels so thin and cleansing. There is a great peace in winter, a solitude and silence, that other seasons don't quite have.

Also, it's the perfect season in which to make soup....

I had been disappointed that Rob had dug my bird out of its mound of snow. I'd sort of wanted to wait and see what happened, if the wind would blow some of it off at some point. But then, I saw this, and was glad.


  1. Yes, yes, yes. Wonderful post, wonderful meditation. And thank you for the (new to me) Judith Hill poem.

  2. Yes, a resonant post and amazing poem. Thank you for this and for helping me to breathe into winter. I shared this post today with others I was so taken with it.

  3. I like the air of winter especially if I get a chance to go into the woods. But I need to be properly dressed in order to enjoy it so that part of your post about the expense of winter rang true for me.

  4. "Wage Peace", I have a new favorite poem, thank you for sharing it, Shawna. I'm thinking that I must wage peace with winter this year and after seeing all the beauty in your photos, I may actually be looking forward to the cold and the snow. I do enjoy the hibernation part :) I sure hope you are making soup and drinking tea to help get rid of that nasty cold.

  5. Thx everyone - I loved the poem, and glad you did as well. The terrible cold continues.....but nearly gone. xo


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