Just Breathe

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Stay with me, Let’s just breathe
– Eddie Vedder

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20

The other night I watched the film documentary, Buck, about the man who was the inspiration for the Robert Redford film, The Horse Whisperer. Buck is a horse whisperer—a man who has an almost mystical relationship with horses. What impressed me about the film was not so much what Buck could train horses to do but the motivation behind the way he works with horses.

That motivation seems to be compassion and empathy for the horse and out of that compassion and empathy comes a deep longing to connect. The film reveals that a cruel father abused Buck and his brother as children. When their teachers saw the bruises on the boys that had been inflicted by their father, they were removed from his care and placed in a loving foster home. But this relief came only after years of abuse. Instead of becoming embittered and abusive himself, as so often happens, Buck became a man filled with loving-kindness.

He states in the documentary that he empathized with the horse’s fear for their safety and well-being—even at times for their lives. He understood this fear because he had experienced it himself many times. We see this same loving kindness offered to the people Buck works with as well. His own suffering seems to have given him both a longing and ability to connect with others. It allows him to see through the external facades we all try to protect ourselves with and touch what is essential in both horses and people. Buck seems to intuitively realize that all living things share this essential soul or spirit. He is not a theologian and doesn’t talk about this in the film; rather, he demonstrates it through his relationships with his family, friends, clients and the horses he works with.

It wasn’t until the final credits of the film that all of this came together for me. What revealed the essence of this documentary to me was Eddie Vedder’s beautiful song of longing and love “Just Breathe” that was played as the credits rolled. I have heard this love song before and always been moved by its expression of the longing to connect—to be accompanied as we move through our life’s journey. To me, the song is a prayer that each of us has uttered to the Mystery many times in many ways—“Stay with me –let’s just breathe.”

During this time of Lent, with Easter almost upon us, I remember the promise made to us by the risen Christ, And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. This is the promise we all long to hear and we have only to remember that it is a promise we can count on. We are often moving too fast to be aware of the one who accompanies us always. We may find this presence in each other, in nature and in our animal companions for it is what we live and move and have our being in. Vedder’s haunting anthem suggests how we might awaken to it. We only have to slow down and just breathe.