Breathing Under Water

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:


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.
Good neighbors.
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 warning.

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(Carol Bieleck, R.S.C.J. from an unpublished work)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.

16 thoughts on “Breathing Under Water

  1. I have this book as well. Have had it for at least a year but haven’t read it yet – I read his previous book, Simplicity, which talks about solititue and is more socialogically bent than I expected (I was hoping more of a meditative type story, but it was much broader in scope). nonetheless, I have heard recommendations about this for some time now. I can’t wait to discuss it with you!

    • Read it Paul!!:-) I’m actually part of an AA book group that’s reading it…and the discussions are so powerful! I look forward to talking with you about it too! Take care my friend!

  2. I love how he put that. I have been breathing under water most of my life, I think. When the sea comes when you are very young, you just breathe without the struggle. But it sets you apart. Eventually others catch up and understand. That is both sad and precious. Maybe that’s what we survivors are. Merfolk.

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