Tag Archives: St Francis

8th Email Exploration

The story goes that Saint Francis would pass through entire nights asking, “Who am I, God?”  and “Who are you, God?”
There is no record of precisely how he did this.  Today’s exercise is just one possible way to go about it, and the notes below the practice give a few suggestions of alterations that are worth considering.
Today’s practice is entirely word-based.  In that sense it is more on the cataphatic side of the spectrum.  Just as centering prayer sometimes employs words to release our thoughts, this practice uses words to help bring us face-to-face with how little we know.  In this sense, this practice is quite apophatic.  In some ways, this is the most apopathic of all the practices we will engage; the next email will be slightly more embracing of the light and trusting of our ability to speak and comprehend the divine.
1.  Sit in a posture which balances being comfortable and alert.
2.  Inhale.
3.  Exhale.
4.  With your next inhale, ask the question, “Who am I, God?”
5.  With your next exhale, ask the question, “Who are you, God?”
6.  Continue this pattern for the bulk of the time you had set aside for this practice today.
7.  When you are ready, release the questions.  Continue your deep breaths.
8.  If you wish, explore what new answers you might have to those two important questions.  Consider whether the questions mean something new.  Ask yourself in what ways you come to feel that those two questions’ answers might be related.

There are many ways to alter these exercises.  Some of these alterations can revolve around the breath.  For example, you might ask the question, “Who are you, God?” on the inhale.  You might ask the question, “Who am I, God?” on the exhale.  You could also hold the breath for a moment, and consider the first question after the inhale, and consider the second question after the exhale.
It also brings a different air to this practice to separate the questions.  Ask, “Who am I, God?” With each breath for the first half of your practice and “Who are you, God?” for the second half of your practice.

Exercise 18: Who am I? Who are you?

Background: It is said that St. Francis past an entire night asking 2 simple questions: “Who am I, God?”  and “Who are you, God?”  It is not known what his method was; the correlation of the two questions to the two parts of breath is purely speculation on my part.

This is a great oppurtunity to experiment with breath prayer.  Will you assign each question to a different part of the breath?  Do both with the inhalation?  Both with the exhalation?  Give a try to leaving some space.  Perhaps by asking each question with the inhale.  If you are leaving that empty space, try to explore being present with the breath and without thought during the emptiness, then try to allow yourself to contend with the questions in that space.

The Exercise

  1. Sit up as straight as you comfortably can.  Release your worries and obligations for the duration of your spiritual exercises today.
  2. As you inhale, ask the question, “Who are you God?”
  3. With your next inhale, ask the question, “Who am I God?”
  4. Continue this pattern.  When other thoughts or concerns arise, release them by returning to these questions and your breath.
  5. When your time is nearing completion, dismiss the questions.  Enjoy a time of wordless communion.
  6. When you are ready, explore your feelings about the questions and consider whether or not you have anything that looks like answers to these two important questions.



Bare with the video; the audio gets much better around 1:17, which is before the practice begins.