• Joel Harter

A Mindful Numen Lumen

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

Hello, friends and fellow phoenixes!

Today we're introducing "Virtual Numen Lumen" – a special Thursday Inspiration that you can enjoy remotely. Every week, while we are working and studying remotely, we will post a reflection from a member of our campus community. Some weeks we'll also include recommended music. (Multifaith Intern Elle Fiedler chose today's morning song, and that's our music selection for Numen Lumen.)

To start things off, I'd like to share something more interactive that we can all do together during this uncertain and unsettling time for our world, our nation, and our local communities.

I know I have been experiencing more anxiety and feeling (frankly) disoriented. Today, I share two breathing exercises that can help you center in the moment and better connect mind and body. Even if the present moment is uncomfortable for you, these exercises can help settle you and help you manage stress.

If you just want the exercises, watch the incredibly amateurish video. If you want to learn a little more, keep reading. (Dog alert. There is a dog in the video.)

When we think of using the breath to center us, we often think of meditation — we think of mindfulness and yoga — which are informed historically by multiple and various Eastern traditions and often practiced and popularized in more secular settings.

Many traditions and practices use the breath. It’s not just Buddhism and yoga. In Christianity, there is an ancient tradition of connecting the Jesus Prayer to the breath: (breathing in) Lord, Jesus Christ / (breathing out) have mercy on me. There are Sufi practices in Islam that connect the breath to reciting the names for God. The poet Hafiz refers to this in these lines:

Your breath is a sacred clock, my dear—

Why not use it to keep time with God’s Name?

To be clear, I am not saying that all these traditions and practices are the same. They’re not. My point is that different cultures and traditions have noticed the rhythm and value of our breath to center and ground us.

This centering includes connecting mind and body – honestly, challenging the mind/body construct – and this is important for our physical and spiritual health. Many traditions and modern research support the value of holistic wellness.

As a Christian, I find an encouragement to this wholeness in the greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Here, Jesus in the gospels is quoting Torah, and we have both Jewish and Christian sources speaking of an integrated and whole-person orientation towards God and towards neighbor (the second commandment, also from Torah).

Whether you are religious or not, this kind of whole-person integration is important. We need to connect and love with our full being. The breathing exercises in my videos are only two ways to do that. If they are helpful, use them. If not, find some other practice to center in the moment — whether its going for a walk or run, mindful coloring or journaling, or a good conversation with a friend (with Skype if necessary).

We will post a reflection each day, and a special Numen Lumen every Thursday.

Peace and good vibes.

Joel Harter, Associate University Chaplain

Note: The meditation poem for this exercise is adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh:

I know I am breathing in (as you breath in)

I know I am breathing out (as you breath out)

I calm my body and my mind (in)

I smile (out)

I dwell in the present moment (in)

I know it is a wonderful moment (out)

You can adapt the poem or create your own. I encourage you to smile. The physical act of smiling can also make us happy. If the present moment doesn't feel wonderful, you can still wonder about it and be curious about it. Being mindful is acknowledging and accepting whatever we are feeling and experiencing in the moment.

The Hafiz poem is “A Wild, Holy Band” in the wonderful poetry collection I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy.

Joel Harter supports all the student organizations and affiliated ministries in religious and spiritual life on campus, and he develops programs and multifaith collaborations that support the spiritual and inner well-being of Elon students, faculty, and staff. Joel is an ordained congregationalist minister, who advises LEAF, PUG, and Elon Yoga Club. Joel has graduate degrees from Northwestern University, Harvard Divinity School, and the University of Chicago.

Contact: jharter@elon.edu

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