Shofarot: Patterning Our Breath
Some birds, like grebes
and eiders, have more hemoglobin in their blood, and the higher concentrations of oxygen allow them to remain underwater for extended periods. I watched an eider
swimming deep under the surface, and I inhaled deeply and tried to hold my breath in concert, but was forced to exhale long before the bird surfaced. Again I tried. And again. Deep breath in, hold, exhale. My lung capacity could not equal theirs, and I was awed at how long they could remain submerged.
When I was patterning my breath to the sea ducks, I was practicing Pranayama, the conscious breathing that is one of the eight stages of Yoga.
Last year I practiced patterning my breath to the Shofar blower. It was different from actually blowing because I wasn’t frustrated by the Shofar’s weak sounds when I try to blow. (I’m convinced that the problem is with the Shofar, not my blowing, but my friend, Rabbi Chaim Goldberger, played the same Shofar as a magic flute – I still insist that the Shofar is too old, and Rav Chaim simply used his power of Bitachon to make it work!)
The listening to the Shofar, which is the actual Mitzvah, while patterning my breath, allowed me to hear differently. The sounds penetrated far deeper into my soul and bones. The experience was so powerful, that I used the same patterned breathing on Yom Kippur as we read of the Kohen Gadol entering the Holy of Holies. I held my breath as I imagined he would as he first entered. I breathed quick breaths as I pictured him pacing the incense on the burning coals. I breathed a deep breath of relief as I read of him backing out of the holiest of places, happy to still be alive.
The experience was even more intense than the Shofar breathing. My prayers describing those few moments of his life were as if I was standing with him. I decided to practice this same patterning during Elul.
I chose the most intense Teshuva moments of my life, and patterned my breath to each moments, while reciting the blessing of Teshuva.
I selected the most intense moments of feeling alive and bursting with potential, after which to pattern my breath and mind, when praying for life.
I relived the experience of entering Peter the Great’s throne room in the Hermitage each time I mentioned God as King in my prayers.
My father zt”l always insisted that we never think of a festival as commemorating an experience, but as reliving the original event. I believe that this patterning has opened a new way to experience the original story. It brings me there. It makes it real.
Next patterning exercise? The original Shabbat.
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