I was reminded today that the words for breath and spirit in most every great spiritual tradition are the same.
We all, from the lowest to the highest forms of complex life, share in the one great breath. The breath is our bridge of exchange between the finite and infinite realms. Before we can cry or speak or make sound out of the womb we must first breathe.
Truly it is up to the cosmic creator to give and take breath away.
Yet, we don’t typically notice this life sustaining and cosmic connecting exchange of breath until it is somehow impeded or strained.
Breath is the backdrop for the stage upon which our lives are animated.
Breath is the shared, even though personal, anchor connecting us to the very ground of our being and to a circle of belonging that includes all of humanity. This includes the deceased as not even our loss of breath can separate us from the infinite spirit with which we carry and from which we originate.
The faint cry of “I can’t breathe” has not been quieted in the days since George Floyd breathed his last breath on earth. The injustice through which it was squeezed out of his black body has become a birth canal to a chorus of cries from the one collective body of humanity. Sounded loudest from those sick and tired of feeling like they can’t breathe as freely as some of us as they go about living their daily lives. George Floyd’s murder and loss of breath serves as an icon and a place holder for a deeper, collective, cry.
You see, what you do to the least of these you do to Me.
Well when did we see you?
To the extent that we see the blood on our hands from turning blind eyes to our own prejudice, privilege, and, profit at the expense of black and colored bodies will we experience salvation (read awakening). Where we recognize that what we do to one part, to one person, we do to the whole.
I’m ready and willing to turn around and change my mind-to stand up and be counted-voluntarily placing my voice, my body and my privilege in service of not just an ideal but a concrete reality that says there is but one breath from which all of life draws and to which I owe each returning breath.
And as the systems I have colluded in creating have skewed the balance in giving unequal opportunities to vessels of breath colored in darker shades than mine, it is not my right to project my own unchecked darkness onto the color of their pigmentation in judgement, but rather it is my responsibility to examine the repressed darkness hidden in the silence, fear, justification and deceit within my own heart with which I consciously and unconsciously exhale day-in and day-out through both inaction and action. This, in order to see from the light, the beauty of black and colored skin within the blessed gift of the created and creative order.
What we inhale with intention we effortlessly exhale its corresponding energy.
I invite you now to take a few seconds to consciously slow your breathing as a gesture of gratitude for the precious gift of your connection to life.
I now invite you to hold your breath for several seconds in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters who time and again have, and continue right now, to suffer great loss.
I finally invite you into the wonder of breath’s holographic and intrinsic relationship with spirit. To the place where ancient, cosmic and concrete belonging resides in physicality here and now.
What will you do with such a powerful gift?
My own intention for myself is the following...
That I may breathe collected and responsibly as a single cell for the sake of the entire body of humanity.
That I may ride that breath with courage, confidence and hope into whatever darkness exists in my own heart and keeps me from yielding to the master’s prayer to “Lord, make them one.”
Veni Sancte Spiritus…
Come Holy Spirit…
Come Holy Breath…
Come make us One…
So, let it be.
Jonathan lives in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas with his wife, dogs and three children. His teaching blends the Christian Contemplative tradition, 4th Way spirituality and the teachings behind the Enneagram - with a focus on companioning others from the unified and collective field accessed through the heart. He is a life-long seeker who offers, retreats, workshops and private Spiritual Direction in person or by zoom, one-to-one or in groups.