A Musing Table: Of Deer Paths and Heart Prayers

Been really taken with the area of "heart prayers" lately. Others call them breath prayers. Came across this when following a little course on creating a rule of life awhile back (they call it a life rhythm, see here). From it:

"Discovering your breath prayer:

Begin by spending time in God’s presence, allowing yourself to settle into a place of comfort and intimacy, receptivity and restful repose.

Then imagine Jesus calling you by name and asking, “____________, what do you want?” ... Allow your truest answer to come up from your heart, and express this to God...

Work with the words or the phrase that comes until you feel that it captures your desire as truly as possible right now. This word or phrase will become the heart of your breath prayer.

Choose your favorite image or name for God as you are relating to him right now, such as God, Jesus, Father, Creator, Redeemer, Spirit, Breath of Life, Desire of the Nations, Lord, Shepherd—whatever best captures your sense of who God is to you at this point in your relationship. ...(and) combine your name for God with the expression of your heart’s desire. Place it where it is easiest to say in the rhythm of your breathing.

If various possibilities come, write them down and eliminate or combine until you have a prayer of about six to eight syllables that flows smoothly when spoken aloud and captures the core of your deep yearning for wholeness and well-being in Christ. Your breath prayer could be a phrase from a biblical prayer or Scripture passage. Just make sure it is short enough that it prays easily in the rhythm of your breathing.

Once you have chosen your breath prayer, pray it into the spaces of your day—when you are waiting in line or in traffic, when you are worried or anxious, when you are needing some sense of God’s presence. Over time, learn to pray it underneath all the other thoughts and words that swirl around you throughout your daily interactions. In times of solitude, pray this prayer as way of entering into silence and of bringing your mind back to your desire when it begins to wander. Use the breath prayer God has given you consistently until you feel this prayer no longer captures your deepest need or desire or until God gives you another one."

Our heart prayers can come simply in other ways too, like dreams. Many years ago i had this dream about "follow the path of the reindeer", and as funny as it may sound to others, remembering that phrase helps me, its been a kind of heart prayer. And this all came up again recently, since one of the most precious things about living here has been the deer. Tuesday was a challenging day (a toxic fieldday (toxic for those of us with EI) was had in a dentist office, long story). But in the morning i had seen a deer in the yard, and something about being around their gentleness kind of "held" me during the day and actually helped make the day quite special in the end. It’s the same deer little family that keeps visiting here, and yesterday they were down by the water, and then right outside the trailer, i was in the yard and they allowed me to get about 8-10 feet from them, it was such a moving experience! Gratefully goes in the heart's "treasure chest" : )

So i've been thinking more about deer lately. Two bible verses come to mind,

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
--Psalm 42:1

The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.

My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
--Song of Solomon 2:8-9

And another experience comes to mind, from last month. It was late at night and i heared a rustling outside, and then suddenly felt this amazing calm, it felt soooo nice...definitely not my usual reaction when there is a noise outside late at night! Found out later it was a deer, and i was just amazed at the huge calming effect they have. What is it that helps them calm so much?

Turned to my finace about this, he has lived with deer (and plenty of bears and eagles too) with his work in Alaska. And he ws explaining to me how they lived. What jumped out was their paths. They spend part of the year together but when the stags grow their antlers then they are separate a lot from the does, because of a need around paths.

For the doe (female) and also the young, they stay in more brushy and wooded areas for protection. And these paths, when they go up steep hills, wind like a ribbon rather than go up straight, to create a more gentle (if longer) climb.

But not so for the stags (males) when they have their antlers. They keep to the more exposed open areas, even though its more dangerous...otherwise their antlers would get tangled in the brush (funny how thats how they are created). And their paths uphill go straight up steeply and quickly, rather than gently ribbon like the doe paths do.

Something about this, about the heroic exposure of those stag paths and the higher protection of those doe paths, that lovely maleness and femaleness felt there, moves me. But its more, its also that deer really do like to stay on their paths, on their old paths carved through the generations, even more so than many other animals. Its like that original (as opposed to its later abuse) "scribe" feeling, of lovingly following and beautifying rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

And then there is the deer’s gentleness, the feeling with which they walk their path. Now i'm not talking about the stags in heat (things are far from gentle then, they are like a knight in battle in their own way, God love 'em). But the gentleness during many other times with the stag, or during most all times with the doe. Truly, this is just such a moving thing, and being around it has such an effect. Its part of their "path", and in their soft eyes, their tender movements. And the paths we follow have such a huge effect, understatement. More and more, i am finding myself less concerned with things like petty denominations and more concerned with a woman's walk leading to a "meek and quiet spirit" somehow. Those gentle does and their paths, they are sure there with bells on. And deer are part of our Christmas traditions to boot, through the lovely Yule traditions of the Nordic lands. I get the feeling, and its such a nice feeling, that deer understand the true magic of life. A magical sense of life born out of the trust and joy of knowing we are cherished, and of simply and gently following. Following those ancient, softly beckoning paths in the wood....

(First image adapted from The Home Realm, second one from The Northern Lights Route)

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