SPIRIT, BREATH AND WIND

Hit by the wind meditationThe various meanings of the Greek word are particularly striking in the third chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. Here Jesus is instructing Nicodemus, a leading member of the Pharisees, who had secretly become his follower. The message is that one can enter the kingdom of heaven only through being born again “of water and Spirit” (John 3.5).

Verse 8 has Jesus declaring: “The wind blows wherever it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”. The force of this line cannot be fully appreciated in English or in any modern language, where the words for “wind” and “spirit” are unrelated to each other. In Gospel Greek however, both are rendered by pneuma. And with both, it is not possible to predict in what ways they will move.

The guided meditation that follows is based on the multiple meanings of pneuma in John 3. You can do it out of doors, when the weather is not too cold or wet. However, even if the weather is cold or stormy, you can do it while walking. Another option is to practise it sitting indoors with the window open. An ideal time would be a Summer’s evening which often brings up a pleasant breeze before sunset. Whatever time or place you choose, ensure that you have sufficient clothing or a rug to keep yourself warm. Begin by taking a few minutes to make yourself comfortable.

HIT BY THE WIND

1. Become aware of your body and the breath. Allow sufficient time for the breath to become slow and smooth.  

  2. Focus on your sense of hearing. Make a mental “shopping list” of all the different sounds that you can hear ‑ birdsong, dogs barking, children at play, work sounds, aircraft, music players, machinery, traffic etc.. 

  3. Do not let yourself be annoyed with sounds that you might not like - for instance, loud music in the garden next door or the revving of an engine. Simply note each sound and then wait on the next, making no judgement for or against any one of them. 

  4. Allow the sounds to happen and do not strain to hear them. Relax and let each sound register on your con­sciousness.

5. Pay particular attention to any sounds connected with the wind - rustling of leaves or of anything else being moved by the wind. Hear the wind running through trees, hedgerows or shrubs.   

  6. Note how the wind rises in strength and suddenly fades away. Feel the way it gusts and changes direction without warning. Get a sense of the Lord’s words: “you do not know where it comes from or where it is goes”. Relax, flow with the sound, the force and the direction of the mysterious wind.  

  7. Become aware of the wind against your skin. How does it feel? Again note changes in direction and intensity. Receive the wind peacefully irrespective of how it is behaving.  

   8. Focus in on the breath, allowing yourself to be breathed, to be filled by the wind, receiving what it is offering you, as a reminder that “The wind/breath/spirit blows wherever it chooses”. 

This exercise can help you experience in a concrete way the connection between wind, breath and spirit. It can lead you to feeling more alive and in communion with your body and the environment. In the words of one practitioner, “My senses seemed to be more acute: lungs seemed to expand more, feeling of great hunger for pneuma – a sense of being filled in my whole being – then a sense of being one with the whole of creation – exhilaration felt with each breath.”