Just like many other retreat and conference centers across the country, the Abode of the Message, an interfaith retreat and spiritual center in New Lebanon, New York, is having a quieter summer season than usual. Situated in the peaceful, picturesque foothills of the Taconic Mountains, the Abode has always been a place for people of all spiritual backgrounds to gather. While it’s cruelly ironic that the Abode’s 45th anniversary year is a silent one, these quiet months offer the opportunity to build a practice of self-reflection that is central to the Abode’s retreats.
While the Abode’s doors are currently closed to outside visitors, the center's retreat guides have offered this elemental Sufi breathing practice that you can do from anywhere. This particular breathing practice focuses on the element of air. In Sufi practice, the air element represents freedom. When applied to your personality, air represents freedom from all the things that you hang onto for the security of the ego, like maintaining or striving for a fixed or positive self-image.
Instructions for Air Breath
Breathe in through the mouth and out through the mouth—it is a very fine breath, not audible at all. Identify with the element of the air: sense its lightness, its swiftness. As air, you have no weight, no heaviness that ties you down to the earth. You are free. Just feel yourself moving freely through the space, no boundaries. You can extend your being in all directions, and you are transparent so the light can shine through you. There is no denseness that can block the light off. Just feel this transparency, the lightness, this enormous freedom.
On the exhalation imagine that all the atoms of your being dissolve into the vastness of the universe. Let go of your self-image, give up all definitions of yourself. Let your personal thoughts vanish in the wisdom of the universe. There are no boundaries. And when you inhale, experience the rebirth of your being. You are born anew as a completely different being—vast, wide, and one with the universe.
To deepen your practice while working with this breath, consider the following questions: How intensely do I feel the longing for freedom in my life right now? In what areas of my life do I experience expansiveness and freedom? How do I hold onto or feed the idea of my separate individuality?
The Abode plans to reopen next spring to visitors from all walks of life. Until then, the center is planning to offer personalized individual retreats online. Follow the Abode on Facebook or join their newsletter to keep up to date with their latest news and offerings. From larger groups to individual retreats, find what you’re seeking at the Abode.