Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sighing for the relief of it

Dear Pamela,
When you are directing a person on the spiritual journey, do you ever have someone who cannot seem to stop sighing?  Recently I was stressed about an important relationship and anxious about how coming together with this person might unfold and I found myself tired and doing a lot of sighing.  
Sighing, scientists say, is sort of like a human release valve for the respiratory system.  It helps to keep the lungs, alveoli and air passages loose and flexible.  Let’s face it when it comes to breathing, we need to be able to catch our breath!  We have to be able to allow oxygen to enter our lungs and feed our brain or else it quickly becomes quite hard to think clearly.  We have to be able to get the CO2 out as well because it is toxic to our system and must be expired. 
Sighing seems to do this more quickly and efficiently for us.  We need to sigh.  We need that oasis, for in the midst of struggles and trial we find ourselves breathing more shallowly and in dire need of air!  Sighing functions to push out what we don’t need so that we can fill up with what we do need.  
St. Paul talks about sighing in his letter to the Romans, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) Imagine the Holy Spirit doing the sighing for us when we are simply unable to manage it ourselves; providing us with a spiritual relief valve!  A sense of relief comes over us even as we struggle because God is filling us up with nothing less than his holy pneuma/air/spirit/breath.  
What do you think?  I await your reply.
Well, my young friend, there is so much to appreciate about breath.  Your observations about sighing are accurate… however, have you ever seen a woman in labor who is sighing?  No!  Gasping, panting, or holding the breath, to be sure!  But not sighing.  
I think that sighing is possible only in the more passive spaces between activities.  For example, at the end of highly energized moments, we may sigh.  Or in anticipation of what might seem to be overwhelming tasks, we may sigh.  But…in the throes of activity we don’t sigh.   
Therefore, (as is so often the case) God’s loving spirit intercedes… and sighs.    When we are actively busy and scurrying about, thinking that we are being diligent, are we actually approaching our weakness?  Perhaps we don’t even realize that we are entering the realm of our limitations…. And perhaps the spirit sighs within us because we simply aren’t breathing.  
Something to think about, right?  

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