The Nature of Things

The Chair

How Greg Farrand found deep gladness — and Second Breath

 

By Ashley Wahl

Years ago, a dear friend gifted me a small book by travel writer Pico Iyer. I read the intro, a compelling scene in which the writer visits his boyhood hero, Leonard Cohen, at a monastery high up in the San Gabriel Mountains. Cohen tells him that sitting still is the most “profound and voluptuous” entertainment he has found in his 61 years on the planet.

Intrigued, I couldn’t wait to read more. And yet, I didn’t. I must have been too busy.

Flash forward to a bright December afternoon a few weeks back. I am sitting outside of Holy Trinity Church with associate rector Greg Farrand, leaning in as he tells me how, by sitting still, he found his deepest gladness.

It reminded me of that book.

Farrand has been exploring what he calls the “divine mystery” for over 30 years. By the time you read this, he’ll have left the clergy and will be fully immersed in growing a self-discovery movement called Second Breath.

Rooted in ancient Christian wisdom, Second Breath invites people from all walks on a transformative journey inward. He is utterly giddy talking about the impact its spiritual practices and teachings have had on his own life. And then he reels back to a time when he was not so giddy — a time when he was actually quite lost.

A decade ago, Farrand, pronounced Fair-und, had reached total burnout. He was the pastor of a booming Presbyterian church he had founded, and yet his faith was evolving in a different direction.

“I knew if I was open about where I was growing spiritually, I would lose my job, my friends, my pension — everything,” says Greg.   

He didn’t know what do to. And so, he shut down.

One night, his wife, Beth, confronted him.

“It’s like the light’s on but nobody’s home,” she managed through tears. It was affecting their marriage, she said, and their three young boys.

When he shrugged her off, the light drained from Beth’s face. Then, the phone rang.

It was a friend who worked in the High Point furniture industry, says Farrand. He was calling about a shipment of luxury chairs. There were extras. Did they want one at cost?

“I thought, that’s the weirdest call,” says Greg. “I don’t need or want a chair.”

But Beth did. She put it upstairs in their bedroom, then, day after day, for weeks and then months, she sat in her chair — sometimes for hours on end.

“I remember thinking she was losing it,” he tells me. And then something magical happened. Beth began to transform.

First, Greg noticed that her hugs were different — tender and melting and new. Then, one day, she let out a rapturous belly laugh — a sound that had become, to Greg, rare as a passing comet. 

“What is going on with you?” Greg asked.

The chair, Beth said.

For the first time in her life, she told him, she had gifted herself space to find deep peace. 

Greg wanted in on the magic. He bought a chair that very day. And the next morning, like Beth, he sat.

“Two minutes of sitting still felt like torture,” he says. But he made himself sit for 20 minutes. Day after day. Week after week.

Twenty minutes turned into forty minutes turned into an hour, and soon it became Greg’s favorite time of day. 

“My wife and I had this secret little gift to ourselves,” says Greg, who refers to Beth as the bodhisattva (enlightened one).

Better yet, sitting still awakened Greg to a radical possibility: What if his entire life could feel as sacred and scrumptious as his chair time?

And, guess what? Now it does.

Greg lets out a belly laugh, overjoyed that his life’s calling allows him to help others find stillness. By going inward, he says, the outward journey becomes clear.

Tomorrow morning, I tell myself, I’m going to sit still. And maybe I’ll finish that book.  OH


To learn more about Second Breath, visit secondbreathcenter.com.   

Contact editor Ashley Wahl at awahl@ohenrymag.com

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