I Can Hear Her Breathing | March 26, 2023 by Rev Dr. Kathryn Benton
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
The opening music reminds us that we have at each moment, available to us a new breath…the breath of life that animates us. The opening quote from Arundhati Roy, an Indian writer tells us more about that breath…is it the breath of another world on her way?
I shared with the congregation last week that at the end of the day, after I have exhausted all the psychological interventions, for myself and for those patients and clients that I encounter, this is what is left. This is what each of us has at her disposal. I want us to keep this in mind today…the breath of God precedes us and enables us to move forward at this time in our history…if only we could slow down long enough to hear her breathing.
I also shared recently some words of wisdom from the Grandmothers Who Counsel the World, a group of elders who have met in order to offer their vision for the planet. Published in 2006, so many of the grandmothers stated that they were late in sharing their vision, but decided to do it anyway for the sake of our precious Mother Earth and for all life upon her. I don’t think we can afford to ignore their words…their last breaths, expressed for our benefit and for the benefit of the next generations.
Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong left Tibet, her homeland, with two of her three children strapped to her back. She left one behind so that her escape would not be discovered by the oppressive government. Her month-long journey through the mountains of Tibet brought her to India, though she eventually settled in Canada. Grandmother Tsering states that her family was poor when she was growing up but that, “we were a happy people, our minds were very happy…Many generations lived in one house.” Children were taught, she says, “to have a reverence for life and for spiritual traditions.” Here is a collection of quotes from this powerful Buddhist teacher:
This spirit of awakening that Grandmother Tsering speaks of is important for this time…the time when, if we listen deeply enough, we will hear the breathing of another world.
Her words are also reflected in the life of another grandmother, Clara Shinobu Iura of the Santo Daime people of the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. She was of the daughter of Japanese immigrants but was raised in São Paulo, Brazil. After a profound spiritual awakening, she moved to the rainforest to become a healer and then one of the grandmothers who counseled the world. Here is a clip showing her words accompanied by the words of some of the other grandmothers of the council.
Another grandmother, Bernadette Rebienot of the Omyèné people of Gabon shared this hope for a change of hearts of those who govern this Earth. She knew that a spiritual awakening was necessary in order to awaken the child within…thus reversing the course of history. Having visions from a very young age, Grandmother Bernadette learned from her own grandmother to “pay attention to tomorrow” and to “respect the forest”. Becoming seriously ill at a young age, her grandmother healed her with medicinal herbs. This heralded her own spiritual awakening and initiation as a medicine woman. Grandmother Bernadette believed, “Spirituality, which inhabits us all, is equally universal. It is just up to each person whether or not to choose that path.”
Grandmother Bernadette knew her precious forest was in imminent danger from logging companies. Addressing the Council of Grandmothers for the first time she said,
The spirits of the forest of Gabon have said that we can’t go backwards anymore. We can’t have fear anymore. Time is short. Time is calling us. Spirit exists. It is much stronger than the body.
The wisdom of her words is profound. Although she died in January of 2021, her spirit lingers…her words echo in the promise of another world being possible…if we quiet ourselves, we can hear her spirit breathing.
Another grandmother, Rita Pitka Blumenstein grew up immersed in the wisdom of her own Yupik grandmothers and great-grandmothers in the Arctic Circle. Saying that she “feels connected to all the Grandmothers of the universe”, Grandmother Rita states,
Nothing belongs to us. We are here for the universe,
all of us are here for the universe.
She added, We’re late, but we’re here! Born on a fishing boat in the remote Arctic, Grandmother Rita worked as a healer since she was 4 years old. She was able to use this power for her own healing, overcoming diphtheria as a young child and fighting cancer in her later years. Grandmother Rita, growing up without a father, realized that she was holding onto anger associated with this reality and that in order to heal she had to let go of that anger. She spent her life teaching others this wisdom. The following is a recording of Grandmother Rita singing,
This song reminds me of songs I sing to my own grandchildren…we grandmothers are much alike. I wasn’t able to download the video, but there is one from near the end of her life that shows her embracing a young Native woman that she was working with. Her joy was so great…she could not hold it back. To me, this shows the great joy she discovered in passing on her own wisdom to the next generations. What else do we have to do in our elderhood?
These are some of the 13 grandmothers originally included in the council. They began this project in 2004 and many of the original grandmothers have died. This cannot mean that their vision has died. There are so many others working toward this vision…a vision of another world that Roy spoke of. Incorporating the spirit of these women in our work is imperative. We are not so different from these grandmothers, all of us. We have been given the same original instructions that call us…call us through the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism, through the indigenous teachings in the rain forest of Brazil, through the precious forests of Gabon and through the profound strength and resiliency of the Yupik of the Arctic. Yet in order to follow the example of these elders, we need to find a peaceful moment…one that allows us to take in their wisdom and to listen for the breath of this new world. Here is a short breathing exercise to get you started…
If we practice this breathing, not necessarily on a video, but in our lives, we may cultivate an awareness of our own place in the universe…our own calling to bring about another world that needs to be.
May we all be gifted with the certainty that this world is coming, as we listen to her breath and may we participate in this world, bringing about a healing and a transformation for the benefit of the next generations on this precious planet.