Psyche in Breath

“Breathing is our very first teaching—a silent teaching—in the way of interdependency, continuity, relationship, giving and receiving. Our first teaching is one of perfect integration, harmony, non-duality. Breathing comes naturally; it is so rudimentary that it requires no action of volition, no attention or thought. But, for that very reason, the wisdom of breathing is the most difficult, and the very last to be learned.”
– David Michael Levin[1]

Do not put a butterfly in a bell jar,
She is no rose.
No still whorl of petals,
No silent standing stem
To be gazed at from without,
To be denied an inner landscape
From within.

What is this translucent glass,
This invisible barring shield?
Does it keep her safe,
Preserve her from decay?
While a rose’s petals will fall,
A butterfly’s soul
Will not stay.

A life’s breath is finite
When thus closed in.
A life’s breath is finite
When one is shut in.
When all the air’s depleted
What new may
Begin?

Each wing beat a breath,
Each breath a wing beat
In her fluttering breast.
Count each beat,
Count each rest,
Count each moment,
For Self begins in breath.

Breathe deep, wingéd soul,
Sing your heartfelt song.
Expand this element
That you are,
Expand your heart
Beyond the confines
Of this bell jar.

Two images I see
When I say “glass blown”:
A shattering crash
Of splintered glass,
As air forces through
And you fly to the
Unknown.

Or softer yet, though dangerous
Nonetheless:
A warmth, a temperance
Melts the glass from within,
Melting out, melting forth,
Melting away
Oh, begin.

Each wing beat a breath,
Each breath a wing beat
In her fluttering breast.
Count each beat,
Count each rest,
Count each moment,
Now Self begins in breath.

Butterfly in Bell Jar

Work Cited

Levin, David Michael. “Logos and Psyche: A Hermeneutics of Breathing.” Research in Phenomenology 14 (1984): 121-147.


[1] David Michael Levin, “Logos and Psyche: A Hermeneutics of Breathing,” Research in Phenomenology 14 (1984): 129.