Breath is Life – A Winter Warming Ritual

Winter is a time when I hunker down. This is probably true for many people. Since weddings are few and far between, at least in our part of the world, the cold weather keeps me indoors, and provides lots of time to think and write.

So I was thinking: on a cold day have you ever brought your hands to your mouth to blow the warmth of your breath onto them?  With that in mind I imagined  using that exact instinctive act in a ritualistic way. Obviously I didn’t invent breathing onto one’s hands, but what I am doing is giving it a specific meaning, one that connects the importance of breathing and the importance of marriage.  

There are countless religious references that could also be made, especially when we think about Genesis. In that creation story (as in most creation stories) God breathes life into Adam to make him a person, real and alive.

As far back as the Egyptians there was an understanding of breath as it connects to religious or spiritual things. Hindus especially believe many things about the breath’s connection to something greater than our humanity.

In ancient China people were thought to have two souls, both composed of breath. Breath was given to a person to live, and then received back in death.

Buddhist meditation is dependent on discipline of the breath. Islamic prayer also incorporates breathing with the profession of faith when speaking God’s name. There are many more examples of religions using breathing as a means of achieving a higher state of consciousness.

The connection of breath, body and mind in yoga is at the very essence of its practice.  If a couple was interested in yoga I could expand on that, and this ritual is in itself very yogic.

Although I don’t quite have a name for this, I would begin the ritual by asking everyone to think of how the air we breathe is life itself, and life without love is not quite living. Breath is vitality. When we take a deep breath, we are preparing ourselves. Breath is a foundation, sustaining and connecting our body and spirit. When we are confused, we stop and take a breath. And when something wonderful happens we say it ‘takes our breath away.’ Breath really is life.

Next, I would ask the couple to bring their hands up to their mouths and to breath on them, warming them, and then hold each other’s warmed up hands. I would speak of taking this time to breathe in the moment, warming each other heart and soul, and to remember that their marriage, too, is a living and breathing thing. Just as we breathe in and out,  marriage will also expand and contract. Inhale, exhale, ebb, flow. This is natural, life and love ebb and flow.  

Another beautiful moment captured by Lisa Rhinehart

There is a popular reading, the Blessing of the Hands (author unknown), that one hears often at weddings, and if you like the poem, it would work well with this idea.

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever. 

These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.

These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.

These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.

These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.

These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.

These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.

And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

For my Humanist approach, I want to simply emphasize that using breathing as a marriage ritual connects the couple to the essence of their lifeforce, which is wonderful to embrace on such an important occasion.

What do you think of this idea? I hope to create more winter-inspired ideas soon, and if I do, I’ll be sure to share them with you.

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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