Breathing in a Time of Inequality and COVID

“I can’t breathe . . .”

Sadly, these were the dying words of George Floyd in May as he lay pinned under a police officer’s knee.  And unfortunately, these haven’t just been Floyd’s last words; they have also been uttered by others like Eric Garner, Byron Williams, and Elijah McClain.

These infamous three words have also been spoken by COVID victims as they gasp for air, struggling to get enough oxygen into their lungs.  Some have recovered (though many are paying a physical and mental toll for the lack of oxygen to their bodies); others, tragically, have not.

If there has ever been a time when the world has been more focused on breathing, it is now. Certainly, 2020 has been the “year of the breath.”  But often, we are focused on the inequality, lack of accountability, selfishness, and irresponsibility around breathing in this unique time of chaos, divisiveness, frustration, and hopelessness

Yes, the scarcity of breath has led to unnecessary pain and death.

But it’s also through the breath that we can mindfully and intentionally create space . . .

To pause . . .

To evaluate our thoughts and feelings . . . welcoming and observing . . .

To focus on our breath . . . breathing in for four, holding for four, breathing out for four, holding for four.

And repeating . . . as many times as we need to . . .

Breathing brings stability.

Breathing brings peace.

Breathing brings hope.

Breathing brings healthy change.

Instead of reacting out of emotional volatility and bitter anger and stifling fear, we can respond by breathing, which transforms us and, in turn, transforms our communities:

-by making sure our voice is heard so that no one struggles for breath because of the color of their skin or their nationality or ethnicity or their gender or their sexuality or their beliefs or their disability.

-by bearing responsibility, care, and compassion for the health and safety of everyone around us as we wear masks for each other, socially distance, and stay home as much as we can.

As our nation and world focus on the scarcity of breath during this unique time in global history, may we not take our breath for granted and instead utilize the gift of breath to center ourselves and our planet.

Just. One. Breath.

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