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Every cell in our beautiful and amazing bodies contains the whirling wisdom of the universe. This is the journey of one witch remembering that, and celebrating the sacred and divine in beings of all genders and manifestations.

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Life's Precious Breath

         I’m not sure when I first began to divert all my precious breath into the colorful hot air balloon I had sewn together with remnants of mangled religious myths, and yards of unrealistic and projected expectations.  But, somewhere between college and grad school, I filled it with enough of my own hot air to launch it into the stratosphere.  By the time I was 40, the balloon was so voluminous, so huge, so heavy, even my frantic hyperventilation could no longer keep it aloft.  I did not have enough breath in my body, and it crashed to the earth.  

        Dazed and disoriented, I untangled myself from the yards and yards of brightly stitched stories, and crawled out from under the wreckage.  Slowly I began to breathe easier, in and out, no longer winded, no longer light headed. With my precious breath no longer diverted to an untenable cause, I began to examine the pieces of fabric I had sewn together. 

        The huge swath of purple cloth was the mangled myth of an ancient faith I had adopted as a nine-year-old.  The story told of a wise and loving god/man sacrificed by his father god for the redemption of the world.  In the corrupt version of that faith, violence was not only allowed, but required somehow by the elder god.  In the corrupt version of that faith, we were supposed to also sacrifice our very selves to follow him.  Even though I had rejected that interpretation of the story through my studies in seminary, it still permeated the institutions through which I did my work as a minister.  

       Next I traced the shimmering length of moonlight white trim that had lit up  each seam of the hot air balloon.  It was the fairytale fueled and new age marketed misunderstanding of the magic and energy that flowed, ungrounded, though the circuitry of my body.  As a solitary witch, I believed I could energetically hold all the space for every group or event of which I was part, singlehandedly.

       Finally, I took in the biggest piece, yards and yards of bright and shiny gold and orange.  It was my “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” story.  It was the smoke and mirrors of my own musical, performing, and group facilitation talents.  It was the projection of my own and others’ expectations of how I should use my talents in the service of my spiritual and religious work.  Those expectations fooled me into believing I could live a very extroverted life, even though I was actually an introvert who needed a huge amount of solitude and quiet to survive.

       I looked at all the fabric pieces that had made up my hot air balloon, smaller now without my life’s breath inflating it, and let them go.  The purple swath of mangled myth? There is no such thing as redemptive violence.   In fact, I am now wary of any myth from any tradition that can be used to glorify violence or demand such cruel sacrifice.  The moonlight white trim of ungrounded magic?  No witch or worker of magic can hold so much space all by themselves without bursting into energetic flames.  I understand now how important it is to have a community of wise ones to help us learn how to work with and manage the power.  And the biggest piece, the yards and yards of my false extroverted persona?  My gifts and talents are lovely, but I have the responsibility to myself to use them more judiciously. 

       Many of us find ourselves blowing our life’s breath into such patchwork balloons, trying desperately to keep them in the sky.  They are made up of many things:  scraps of distorted family stories, remnants of mangled religious myths,  yards of projected expectations, even the fringe of our own fears.  What I know now is that our life’s breath is precious, and should not be used to keep those balloons aloft.  Blessings on our breath.  May each inhalation and exhalation flow freely, giving life to the very sacred cells of our very sacred bodies.

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Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.


  • Molly
    Molly Wednesday, 16 October 2013

    Loved this very much. Thank you.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Wednesday, 16 October 2013

    Thanks Molly, blessing on your precious breath.

  • Julie Landa
    Julie Landa Saturday, 16 November 2013

    A beautiful reminder of the lifelong process of remembering yourself and finding balance. Thank you!

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Saturday, 16 November 2013

    Thank you Julie - blessings on your process and balance.

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