An Act of Simple Mindfulness
We are all breathing in and out. We intake O2, exhale CO2. Trees and many microorganisms absorb that CO2 in the marvelous process we learned about in grade school – photosynthesis. They then push O2 back into the atmosphere as a byproduct.
Imagine. The components of the O2 you’re breathing in right now has surely been in someone else’s lungs! And not just one person. Thousands, maybe millions, over the course of human history. Oxygen is a recycled product. You never know through whose lungs those same molecules traveled.
This is a remarkable thought. It points to how we are all connected in ways we perhaps have never even considered before. We need one another, yes. But we also give to one another in ways we’re not every aware of.
This interconnectedness fascinates me, not just on a strict biological and physiological level. But also on the more fuzzy metaphysical level and even in the emotional realm. We are products of our past, but we are also moving, second by second, into a future we don’t even know.
Meanwhile, our O2 goes in, our CO2 flows out, and we don’t even notice if we’re sharing the same molecules with ancient kings.
Why this Breath Connection Matters
We live on a planet that desperately needs our care and attention. Of course, one level of that attention is the environment. But another is the human soul. What are we doing to not only nurture our own souls – so that we can be healthy for others – but also nurturing the connections among people – our relational soul?
It’s tempting to look at others who at first appear vastly different from us and to notice the divide. But more and more, we need to develop an eye for the similarities and the unique way those are borne out in each individual.
Where O2 Comes in
We share this same substance across time and around the planet. This is true regardless of national or linguistic borders, economic, political or religious differences. We need it to survive. This very act of sharing it – unconsciously, seamlessly, ubiquitously – should cause us to reflect.
It should cause reverence to well up within us. An awe of the mysterious and divine thread of connection weaving its way among us.
It should cause us to reevaluate the way we view and treat others. It should bring out a sense of commitment to honor the connection we all have to one another.
It should make us more humane, more gracious, more understanding, more loving.
This may, indeed, be what Eastern mysticism and variants of it in the West and elsewhere mean when they talk about “breath.” I have sat in more than one yoga class with the instructor referring to “the breath.” Before, I had always connected it with me. Now I know it has a much vaster, more complex and nuanced meaning. It connects us all.
On the Practical Level
Bringing this into the less philosophical and perhaps more practical realm, what does it mean for me? I believe it’s a need to care for and respect my fellow travelers on this planet with a deeper reverence and respect. To realize we share not only the same spinning ball in space, but even the most essential elements necessary to life.
This makes me want to give this world all I can to bring peace and light and love. To be that salt that seasons the mundane. To offer hope. To treat each individual with the respect worthy of the most fabulous creation on earth. To recognize the divine, the holy, the inestimable value of a life.
To bring people together. To be a bridge. To cultivate a future.
How can you share these ideas with your children?