We are like beggars sitting on a great treasure of which we are unaware. Every day we take some 23,000 breaths, most of which pass unnoticed. Yet doctors tell us that proper breathing is the key to healing and preventing many diseases. Psychologists say the breath can help us calm agitated thoughts and emotions. Spiritual teachers, both Eastern and Western, tell us that attending to, and working with, the breath can be the catalyst for spiritual transformation. It helps us to return to the here and now, develop one-pointed attention, and deepen our prayer and meditation.

In this course we will touch on all these subjects and more. We will learn five guidelines for “proper breathing” (which turns out to be quite different from our usual pattern). We will explore breath as central within Eastern traditions (qi in China and the Hindu prana.) We will learn breath-meditations that help with relaxation, focus, and compassion. We will seek the meaning behind expressions like, “it took my breath away,” or “I need to catch my breath,” and how breath surfaces in poetry.

We will also look at the politics of breath. Why, for example, did the Black Lives Matters movement adopt “I can’t breathe” as their slogan? How does gender, race, and social class, affect our ability to take a full and healthy breath? We will also explore the ecology of breath; moment to moment we realize our connectedness to the earth as we exchange life-giving gases with the trees and plants.

Finally, we will look at our relationship with God or Spirit. In fact, the Latin word “spiritus” comes from the word for breath. Hence we speak of “inspiration,” as we breathe in the presence of the sacred, and ex-press (breath out, voice) our gratitude.

Presenting this retreat will be Drew Leder, one of Spirituality & Practice's Living Spiritual Teachers, the author of six books that range across matters medical, philosophical, and spiritual — even his work with maximum-security prisoners. He is a professor of Western and Eastern Philosophy at Loyola College in Maryland and gives talks and workshops around the world to popular and scholarly audiences. He has been profiled, or his work has appeared, in places as diverse as the Washington Post, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, the Chicago Tribune.

You will receive 12 emails at the pace you choose. They include:

  • A focused discussion of a topic prepared with Drew's care, eloquence, and humor, as found in his many books.
  • Suggested methods for experiencing full, relaxing, and healthy breath, and the physiology behind it.
  • Particular breath-practices and exercises to cultivate awareness, relaxation, and compassion.
  • Four audio guided-meditations prepared by Drew.

Welcome to this chance to catch your breath and follow it into matters physiological, medical, cultural, political, ecological, and metaphysical.

(4 CEHs for Chaplains available.)

Available On-Demand
(choose your own start date and frequency)

$49.95

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