Statio: Breath as Holy Pause
Christine Valters Paintner —
Every breath is a resurrection.
—Gregory Orr (excerpt from poem “Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved”)
In the monastic tradition there is a practice called statio, which is the commitment to stop one thing before beginning another. Imagine, instead of rushing from one appointment to the next, that between each one you pause, you breathe just five long slow breaths. Imagine how this might transform your movement from one activity to another. Or even when you move from one room to another, allow a brief pause on the threshold between spaces. God lives inside our breath and so every breath can become a resurrection.
For the Celtic monks, thresholds were sacred places. The space or the moment between – whether physical places or experiences – is a place of possibility. Rather than waiting being a nuisance, or a sense that you are wasting time, it is an invitation to breathe into the now and receive its gifts.
Each moment of the breath is a threshold – the movement from inhale to fullness to exhale to emptiness. The breath can help us stay present to all of the moments of transition in our lives, when we feel tempted to rush breathlessly to the next thing. Instead, what happens in our bodies and hearts when we intentionally pause? When we honor this threshold as sacred? When we breathe deeply and slowly for even a single minute?
Statio calls us to a sense of reverence for slowness and mindfulness. We can open up a space within for God to work. We can become fully conscious of what we are about to do rather than mindlessly starting and completing another task. We call upon the breath as an ancient soul friend to help us to witness our lives unfolding, rather than being carried along until we aren’t sure where our lives are going. We can return again and again to our bodies and their endless wisdom and listen at every threshold.
We often think of these in between times as wasted moments and inconveniences, rather than opportunities to return again and again to the expansiveness of the present moment and the body’s opening to us right now. Our invitation is to awaken to the gifts right here, not the ones we imagine waiting for us beyond the next door.
(excerpted and adapted from The Wisdom of the Body)
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE is the online Abbess at AbbeyoftheArts.com, a virtual global monastery offering resources in contemplative practice and creative expression. She is the author of ten books including her newest, The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women. Christine lives on the wild edges of Ireland with her husband where they lead pilgrimages and retreats.