Every so often I read a book that is incredibly powerful and inspiring. A book that causes me to think and feel and wonder and learn. A book that opens my mind and my heart and my spirit. A book that affects me so deeply that it moves me to tears.
“Breathing Under Water” by Richard Rohr is just such a book.
I had no idea when I opened to the first page that it would impact me so profoundly.
But perhaps I should have realized it would after reading this poem in the introduction:
BREATHING UNDER WATER
I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.
And then one day,
– and I still don’t know how it happened –
the sea came.
Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew, then, there was neither flight, not death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbours
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.
(Carol Bieleck, R.S.C.J. from an unpublished work)
And I cried. Not tears of sadness but tears of awareness. Because I am learning how to breathe under water. And my tears come from a place of gratitude. Because the sea came into my life too.
And I thought I was drowning.
So I let myself drown.
And it was then that I began to learn to breathe underwater.
This book reminds me to never stop learning…
How to breathe underwater.
Because the sea will always be a part of life.