Invitation 5: Intimacy


Sit still until you can hear your heartbeat. What did you experience?
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Transcript of Video:

I once used this for a retreat. I asked people to reflect on this and I asked them what they thought various parts of it meant. And afterwards, one of the people came up to me and said when they looked at John’s hand here it just seemed that he was tickling Jesus [laughs], which probably isn’t what the iconographer had in mind. And yet there is something really kind of delightful about that image of John being so close to Jesus, both emotionally and physically, that he can tickle Jesus. I mean, you don’t, or you probably shouldn’t, tickle people that you don’t know [laughing], boundaries, boundaries. But here John is so close to Jesus that he could potentially be tickling him. I don’t think that’s what John is doing here but it’s kind of fun to imagine that.

I think what John is doing here is he’s pointing to this image of love and in itself is an image of love, John reclining on the breast of Jesus and in such a way that perhaps John can hear the heartbeat of Jesus here. And so that’s a – if you were going to pray with this icon, that’s another way that you could pray with this icon just simply to see if you can quiet yourself down so much that you can hear your heartbeat and just become aware of your heartbeat. And in a sense by becoming aware of your heartbeat becoming aware of God’s heartbeat and God’s heart beating in love for you.

– Br. James Koester


  1. Christopher Engle Barnhart on March 27, 2014 at 13:54

    It is not so much that I can fell my heart beat but that I feel my lungs breathing, my sense of touch, smell, sound, taste and sight in conjunction with my heart as all in one. My whole body as one body in Christ and with Christ.

  2. Beth on March 25, 2014 at 11:26

    ” Be still. and know that I am God” one of my favorite verses in Psalms. i like to rise early , when the home is quiet. It is calming, and peaceful. I hear The Word.

  3. Sr. Donna Morgan on March 23, 2014 at 20:41

    I experienced this quietness and oneness with God when I was going through chemotherapy. The solitude is conducive to this intimate experience and it is wonderful.

  4. Lorna Harris on March 23, 2014 at 13:04

    I felt God was very close to me; in fact one beat was mine; the other was God’s. I felt comforted especially as this morning, I was feeling very sad about the death of a friend even though this happened some years ago. Somehow I felt that as God was beating his heart into me in this life, that he was beating into my friend’s heart, as it were, in the next life. I felt connected to all of those whose hearts are beating- whether here and now or with God after death to this life.

    • Leonard Dyer on March 23, 2014 at 16:56


      What a beautiful “knowing”. Hearts and love united beyond all boundaries in the unity of the Love of God.

      It helped me understand the oneness I can feel with those I have lost….but through this regained.

  5. beth on March 23, 2014 at 07:26

    I heard the fan carry breeze through the camper, across my arms, past my cheeks, carrying the scent of dawn in the hammock.
    I heard my husband´s cot creak as he began his waking
    .Should I be concerned that I did not hear my heart as directed?
    A good morning poem

  6. Leonard on March 23, 2014 at 02:07

    At first the distractions of sirens outside, the TV somewhere in the house, and the progression, the collision of my own thoughts kept me from realizing something quite infinite. Then all changes in a time of sitting…
    Ps. 139 beats in my heart as I listen…I am wonderfully made by a loving Creator who is not only without and entirely throughout and within me. And H/She is in and throughout all, permeating all things with that beating which I as one created thing in the universe also feel.

  7. Lynn taylor on March 22, 2014 at 23:22

    I experienced the sensation of what I call the animating energy. Throughout my whole body

  8. Dorothy Wilson on March 22, 2014 at 20:35

    I could hardly hear my heartbeat, but I did experience peace and being loved.

  9. LindaR on March 22, 2014 at 13:36

    I get panicky when I try to hear my heart or concentrate on my own breathing. Too much awareness of vulnerability and too many memories of almost dying. It’s primal. My brother understood. He grew up somewhere else, but when he heard decades later what had happened to me, he asked me to imagine that he had been here. He told me he saw “beneath the horror to the precious child”. He said, “I’m wrapping you in my coat and gathering you very gently in my arms. I carry you away from there, carefully holding you so your head is over my heart. Listen to my heart beating, telling you I’m here, telling you I’m alive, you’re alive, we’re alive, and we’re moving out into the safety of the warm sunlight.” Nothing can change the actual history, but putting alongside it an imagery of being loved and cared for is emotionally healing. Sometimes I try to imagine Jesus’ heartbeat calming me like that. There is healing and peace in such imageries.

  10. Susan on March 22, 2014 at 10:04

    “Be still and know that I am God.” Being mindful of one’s heart beat, nature, folks around you are all important ways of sharing God’s love. I have an friend who is very troubled right now. My prayer for her is to be still, listen to your heart beat, listen for God’s presence, just listen.

  11. Dorothy Brown on March 22, 2014 at 08:54

    I did not so much hear my heartbeat as feel it. I wondered if Mary would have heard a heartbeat if Jesus had allowed her to embrace him in the garden. I thought about “where your heart is, there will be your treasure also” O may my heart be with God! Unfortunately my mind is often in conflict with my heart. I thought about all the heartbeats of all the people in the world beating in rhythm by God’s will. I thought of how I would not exist if God did not cause my heart to beat, and in gratitude I should love him with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul.

  12. Marilyn Weir on March 22, 2014 at 08:42

    When I get quiet and still and really listen to my heartbeat, I am amazed at it – beating away without stopping and I don’t have to think about it. Sometimes I wonder what if it suddenly stopped while I was listening to it? That scares me. How many millions of beats has it squeezed out in my lifetime?
    I’ve also thought about hugs. When we give each other hugs, for some reason we usually hug with our heads on the left of each other so the right side of our chests are touching. When you hug on the other side, then the hearts of the two people hugging are in contact and it is a very powerful experience.

  13. Deacon Susan in California on March 22, 2014 at 00:01

    I could not hear my heart beat, but I’ll try again daily in hope it will happen. I was somewhat distracted thinking about icons. More mind emptying needed for this busy-brained soul!

  14. suzanne robinson on March 21, 2014 at 22:41

    Ben Campbell, of Richmond Hill, once said,
    “True waiting begins when the waiting which we believe to be sufficient is ended.” This was my experience with your invitation. It was not until the waiting which I might have thought to be sufficient was ended that all that might claim me began to fall away and I became stille still, open, alert, awaiting that which I knew not,
    simple and trusting. Thank you.

  15. Katherine Johnson on March 21, 2014 at 20:57

    Whenever I do this, I notice the stillness between beats after I’ve been listening for a bit. Is God there in that stillness? I like to think so. BTW, I have tinnitus, also, but fortunately it stays in the background when I get really quiet, instead of interfering with my being able to perceive the silence.

  16. Robert Shotton on March 21, 2014 at 19:46

    As I listened I found all extraneous noises vanish, and I experienced a wonderful connection with the maker of my heart and life.

  17. Margaret Dungan on March 21, 2014 at 17:59

    I could not hear my heart beat but I was struck by what I saw as the contrast of the love ofJesus and the love of John. John’s love is great but as yet not fully tested and he is soon to discover that his love was not strong enough to pray with Jesus in his time of struggle or at first to stand with him in great danger. God’s love as manifested in Jesus seems to forsee this coming failure but his love for John remains strong. I found this very comforting.

  18. Ross Bliss on March 21, 2014 at 16:48

    Intimacy, as my mortal flesh is stilled and meets the light of Tabor.

  19. John Okerman on March 21, 2014 at 15:41

    I will work on this today. So far I hear the fan of my computer, the noise of the printer as I scan items, and I am distracted. Soon I will go outside to enjoy and beauty and solitude. This seems in contrast to “play” and not taking yourself seriously which we discussed yesterday. In spite of the play and activity I experienced yesterday I was immersed in the beauty of the mountains, the snow, and all that was around me.

  20. Pam on March 21, 2014 at 15:16

    Wow heard a song too but mostly the feeling of relaxing with Him near……healing, openness. A blessing

  21. Eleanor on March 21, 2014 at 14:37

    I’m a little off topic here, I’m afraid, but I want to get back to the icon, as someone mentioned above. I used to write icons, but had never seen that one, and was unable to find an image of it on the web.

    Your icon of John the Beloved reminds me of some types of icons of our Mother, for example, both the elousa and the glykophilousa icons. In them we see the same relationships, except that Our Lady is holding Jesus and gesturing to draw our attention to him; Jesus’ head is snuggled up against her. In both icons, perhaps, we see the same sort of intimacy, the same sort of mutual knowing from the inside.

  22. Gwendolyn on March 21, 2014 at 12:56

    When I try to be still and listen, always, without fail, I hear a song. Sometimes it’s one that I’ve been learning for one of my singing groups, sometimes it’ an old pop song, sometimes it’s a song completely unfamiliar to me. But always, there is a song. To me music is the most intimate of all languages, because in music the whole of creation understands and empathizes. In my church choir, we have a print that says “God likes it when I pray, but he loves me when I sing.” I’ve always felt uncomfortable with that, for God’s love is not conditioned upon my singing. But I am convinced that God knows me and communicates best to me through song. In song is when I feel my relationship with God is most intimate. Perhaps it’s the heartbeat of the song that invites that intimacy.

  23. gwedhen nicholas on March 21, 2014 at 12:09

    When I was quiet all I could hear was the incessant beating away the seconds of the clock. It got in the way of hearing my heartbeat. Also, our society is so convinced of the importance of doing. Sitting with my eyes closed I was afraid that people would think I was sleeping, and not doing anything. I guess I should have closed my door. I was so busy with both these things, that my mind wandered and I had difficulty listening to my heart. It is so difficult to sit with a quiet mind. I was also though, very much aware of abiding in Gods’ Love, and isn’t that what we are trying to do when we meditate? I am very grateful to the brothers for helping me be aware of abiding in Gods’ Love. I never realized before that this is what is meant by “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” Abiding in Gods’ Love is restfulness. We are restless when we allow Satan to whisper restlessness into our ears; dissatisfaction and discontent with what we have and are. Abiding in Gods’ Love we are content and indifferent to the chances and changes of this life. We are held as if we a precious children. May I abide and be filled with Love.

  24. MRM on March 21, 2014 at 12:08

    It was as if I could feel the essential connectedness of all things – in God

  25. grace on March 21, 2014 at 11:58

    I have always found help in use of “”The Jesus Prayer”. Several repetitions of this and focus on what I am asking gives me the needed quiet qnd comfort to calm down and hear my heart beating.

  26. TM on March 21, 2014 at 11:22

    It’s so calming to do this. I sometimes sleep with earplugs in (snoring hubby!), and it’s so soothing to just hear the rhythm of your own breath and your heart. I once saw a Facebook post about how children are especially loving and loved, because they are the only ones who know what their mother’s heart sounds like from the inside. If we quiet down long enough to hear our own heart, wouldn’t it be like tuning back into that, into a primary source of calming and comfort? One could extrapolate that since we are all from God, perhaps it could bring us closer to Him also.

  27. Jane Anne Gleason on March 21, 2014 at 10:28

    This image and the reflection the Brother offers, reminds me of my days as a Labor and Delivery nurse. Our practice was to place the newborn up on the mother’s chest close to her heart so the newborn could be calmed by the familiar sound of his/her mother’s heat beat. It was always amazed me how quickly the infant was calmed and relaxed in this new bright, cold environment and would open his/her eyes to seek the face of the mother as she welcomed the baby into the world.
    Godd through Jesus holds me close and stills my heart beat in times of conflect and pain. I know I am blessed and loved.

  28. Cush on March 21, 2014 at 09:45

    I use breath prayer a lot, but getting calm enough to “hear” my heart beat was a challenge. Ended up finally hearing something rhythmic that was different from the rhythm of my oxygen concentrator — I’m used to using words for this, but decided not to use my “tried and true” method and the reward was wonderful.

  29. Kathleen Sheehy on March 21, 2014 at 09:09


  30. lise on March 21, 2014 at 09:06

    I’m just catching up and glad that I did. i really appreciated hearing about play, intimacy, and several others. I needed this this morning and look forward to tomorrow.

  31. Br. Stephen Francis Arnold, OSB on March 21, 2014 at 08:53

    Complete oneness with God and my surroundings, especially my icon of St. Benedict. God leads one further into oneself toward Him.

  32. Julie Watt Faqir on March 21, 2014 at 08:30

    Once I was able to be completely still and hear my heartbeat I felt such calm…

  33. Win on March 21, 2014 at 07:40

    I could hear crows cawing, the wind whistling outside making the shutters bang, the refrigerator humming along with the furnace going on and off, the clicking of our dogs’ toenails against the hardwood floors, my own breathing along with the whistling of air coming and going through my nose matching in a way the wind outside. But I could not hear my heart beat. I must have a very quiet heart! 🙂 I could however feel my pulse almost matching of the ticking of the clocks in our house. I realized I didn’t hear those clock until I felt my pulse. That sound is so present it became blocked out and made me realize the importance of taking time to recognize ALL the sounds around me – even my heart. The ringing in my ears however, I could do without!

  34. Christopher Epting on March 21, 2014 at 07:26

    I often practice Centering Prayer or sit in a period of silence after Lectio Divina. But I have always used a “word” as mantra. How exciting to actually let the beat of one’s heart (God’s heart) be that which keeps us centered. Thank you, Brother James!

    • Eleanor on March 21, 2014 at 14:32

      This is interesting. I have always had trouble using a word as a mantra. The word always seems to excite my mind rather than helping me become centered. Instead, in have learned to use listening.

    • Lorna Harris on March 23, 2014 at 13:09

      I agree. Now centring prayer seems to be something I can try to practice again!

  35. Chris on March 21, 2014 at 07:21

    I was quickly reminded of how difficult it is to be still and quiet. This is partly because of the severe tinnitus that is hard to tolerate in the quiet, but it’s also part of who I am- I tend to want to keep moving. It’s my desire to continue to practice sitting quietly with God, adore him, to feel his love, and to listen.

    • Robert Close on March 21, 2014 at 08:17


      tinnitus — me too.

      Any remedy working for you??
      None for me….
      I learn to accept….

      May deep silence come to both of us,


      • Tammy on March 21, 2014 at 22:47

        Me three….funny thing….I went to the dr to complain that it was getting in the way of my prayer life twas so loud…..but now I have learned to see it as background noise and depending upon what the noise of the day is it actually helps me to find my heartbeat. Philip Newell wrote a book a long time ago entitled…Listening to the Heartbeat of God….I want to say that the origin of it was one of the church father’s…maybe my favorite heratic Pelagius who was so in tune with the natural world and felt the heartbeat of God within that world…..What brother James offered by showing us the icon was that powerful visual of being connected to the core of someone’s very essence…the ruach…..that which makes them alive in the deepest sense of the word. Actually laying your head on their chest and listening…..what we do with our children and lovers as they sleep…..I will carry that image with me for what I hope is a very long time….Thank you…

        • Winifred on March 23, 2014 at 19:26

          Re: tinnitus, my son (who is a composer/musician and needs his hearing) has found some success with ginko supplements, but even better with special toothguard fitted by a specialist dentist that puts his jaw in the “right” position and at the same time prevents nighttime grinding of teeth – try it! Best wishes for a solution –

  36. Jean Ann on March 21, 2014 at 07:19

    I feel a sense of scattered energy coming back into myself, followed by centering, then calm. Only then am I ready to listen to God.

    I love that particular icon. Is it possible to post a photo of it sometime in BGUAW or on the website?

    • Tammy on March 21, 2014 at 22:39

      I agree…its the first time Ive seen one of the beloved disciple and would love to be able to refer back to it

  37. Mary Caulfield on March 21, 2014 at 07:08

    I’ll definitely try this again today. I heard all the hums and buzzes of things in the building: heat in the pipes, refrigerator, clock ticking. As I started to feel my heart in my chest, I also felt the aches and congestion of what I’m pretty sure is pneumonia. This week was Hell Week for my students (the week before spring break when many major projects are due), and I didn’t feel I could miss it. Today I have a doctor’s appointment and am hoping for some quick fixes. But what I felt during the quieting exercise was my own frailty, my vulnerability before God.

    • Eva on March 22, 2014 at 07:53

      Dear Mary, I hope you give your body a chance to rest and heal during spring break. You are a dedicated teacher. I teach high school and three months ago had totally unexpected emergency surgery. I have not been back to teach since. I had to trust that my students were in the capable hands of others. It’s a different experience focussing on myself and on getting well. Yes my fraility and vulnerability ‘got my attention’ . By God’s grace I came through. I wish not to ‘waste’ this experience.

  38. Robert Close on March 21, 2014 at 07:04

    “Thank You” for the invitation to be still and to listen for one’s heartbeat. My experience — I felt more than heard the heartbeat — quite a calm and centering experience.
    A homecoming of sorts — very good for one who usually
    connects more to the outer world……………………
    Awed by the mystery of God’s Presence in our midst.

  39. Jim on March 21, 2014 at 06:25

    The first thing I experienced was the difficulty of sitting still and actually hearing my heartbeat. There are so many sounds that surround me even in the morning–the traffic outside our house, my partner moving around the house, the jangle of our dog’s collar. I then was conscious of time, how much time could I spend being still when there was so much still to do. So, perhaps today, I’ll need to try this in the evening when the pace is slower and there may be a bit less noise.

    • Christina on March 21, 2014 at 09:01

      I live on a busy downtown street. When I first moved here I was conscious of all the noises: the sirens of ambulances, fire vehicles, police cars. Over time, I recognise them in the background, but they don’t invade. I think your other noises may be more difficult to block out: the dog, your partner. But, one of the miracles I have had for many years now is, when I don’t seem to have enough time to do what’s necessary, to ask God to ‘expand’ the time for me. It sounds strange – doesn’t it? But, for me, it works. I always seem to be able to accomplish what is necessary. If you can, the start of the day is a good time to quieten yourself down. Christina

  40. Carl Riedy on March 21, 2014 at 06:24

    I was struck by the consistency of my heart’s beat.if I could only remember God is walking with me just as consistently. In fact, H/she is always walking with me.
    I also have a throbbing back pain, which almost matched the rhythm of my heartbeat. It also, brought me into this season of Lent, reminding me in a very small way of Our Lord’s pain and suffering.
    May I feel Christ in my heart; may I see him in others and may I entrust my challenges to God.

  41. Carl Riedy on March 21, 2014 at 06:14

    I first felt my pulse at my wrist and slowly heard my heartbeat. I noticed the rhythm, the pace, the consistency. It also almost matched the throbbing pain in my lower back. I had two thoughts.
    The first was if I only I could remember that God is always present in my heart and in my soul. H/she is consistently and always there, trying to ‘beat’ loud enough for me to hear H/her. To help me remember, Be Not Afraid; I go with you always.
    The second was the back pain. No, it did not even compute next to the mental anguish, the physical suffering and the utter rejection through which Our
    Lord lived and died. Yet, it put me in this season of Lent.
    May we love; may we feel Christ’s presence today; may we see Christ’s presence in those around us and may we offer up our challenges and pain entrusting them to Our Lord.

    • Eleanor on March 21, 2014 at 14:25

      I like what you’ve said here about your pain. We can become really isolated in our suffering, but Christ’s suffering reminds us that we are not alone, not even in our pain.

  42. Michael Kolenick on March 21, 2014 at 06:09

    When I sit in silence and clear my thoughts, I am at peace enough to open my heart and feel God’s presence within me. That’s important for me, particularly when I feel lost and undecided and I need God’s direction.

  43. Winifred on March 21, 2014 at 05:42

    I experienced complete relaxation and trust. I also felt tremendous gratitude for my beating heart and for my body that has served me so well over so many years.

  44. kc on March 21, 2014 at 05:29

    It’s like a lot of things in life and nature:
    There is always something to see and hear if you pay attention.

  45. Bob on March 21, 2014 at 04:30

    What a sense of minuteness I felt.

    There was a lot of wind, a lot of rustling, and a lot of musical notes from the world around us. I felt a sense of being small and the presence of something extremely large.


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