As I watched the sky turn a hazy shade of grayish-tan and the sun’s brightness fade due to a Saharan dust storm blowing across the United States, an air quality warning flashed across my phone.
Air quality was reduced to potentially dangerous levels for those with allergies or breathing issues. Back inside we go. Then it occurred to me.
The Universe works in remarkably interesting ways. It is always sending us messages, but we often overlook them or fail to miss their meaning. Our tendency is to see only what is before us—what is at the surface. We often miss or avoid the deeper pattern, the connections, the far-reaching impact.
All the issues, challenges, and conflicts we are experiencing in the United States (and some across the world) have one central theme: breath.
More specifically, the lack of breath, the struggle for breath, suffocation. This extends to the stifling of voices, freedom, cohesion, cooperation, and unity. Aren’t these how we gauge our health, our value, our peace?
Let’s look at what we are facing and how they each break down to the same central points:
This virus’s effect on our bodies is known for its hallmark manifestation: breathing difficulties—from shortness of breath and pneumonia to hypoxia and requiring the assistance of a ventilator to be able to breathe.
We have learned the greatest risk comes through aerosolized droplets on the breath of an infected person. Exposure based on viral load and length of time determines the risk of transmission.
How do we contain the spread? First through lockdowns and quarantining ourselves in our homes. Although the shift from a busy, outwardly focused daily experience was difficult, across the world we all struggled similarly. We found creative ways to connect with and find solace in each other. We found common ground in the shared sacrifice for our neighbors near and far. A sense of oneness with our local communities grew into community with the world.
We began to breathe a bit easier. Then, as we moved back into the world, the second means of preventing the spread of coronavirus was deployed.
2. Face Masks
Mask-wearing was found to be the next most effective means of prevention.
Proponents of mask-wearing say that it is our best protection against the virus; it is how we will save our breath and the ability for others to continue breathing.
Opponents to face masks say wearing them inhibits their personal freedoms and their ability to breathe if worn for any length of time.
Notice the polarity here. The unity that gained in lockdown starts to erode, only for breathing to be inhibited in a much more striking and disturbing way.
3. Racial Injustice
The final “straw” on the back of those suffering prejudice and oppression was the murder of Mr. George Floyd. His dying words, “I can’t breathe,” become the battle cry of the fight against racism toward Black Americans, and inspire a mass outcry and worldwide protests.
How did Mr. Floyd die? Suffocation by police officers. His breath was taken by the systems and structures of authority put in place to protect our people and society.
The separation of daily life experiences between Black and white in the United States become clear as honest, often harsh, conversations open. The murder of Mr. Floyd and the symbolism of the muting of his voice, his breath, and ultimately his life spotlighted the inequalities that exist.
Across the country and world, people use their breath, their voices, to speak out against prejudice and racism.
The determination to remove racism creates solidarity across areas that were previously divided. A vast push for change begins to make its way through communities, conversations, the media, the government, our individual minds, and into the collective consciousness.
Reactions to this push show us where the separation still lies. Aspects of the current structure and systems work to suppress the voices speaking out, through legal means such as curfews, restricting protests, and then literally with the use of tear gas and pepper spray. Media outlets were employed to further hinder messaging.
Through news outlets and social media, organizations vigorously work to squash opposing messages and opinions with censorship, gaslighting, misleading information, and outright falsities.
Focusing on their own agendas, the suffocation of conflicting opinions is rampant. This has been building for decades in both United States and global politics.
United States politics has steadily become more divisive and polarized.
It is commonplace for discussions to turn into aggressive arguments, and “winning” takes precedence over constructive dialogue, listening, understanding, and compromise. This occurs from a national level all the way to our own families and social circles.
Voices are stifled. Opinions are ingested as fact. The overriding energy of division and duality creates an environment in which opposing sides celebrate the separation. Stagnancy prevails.
7. Clean Air
And so we find ourselves back at the beginning: the Saharan dust storm—the most significant the United States has seen in decades. It clouded the light and inhibited our breath, sending us back inside.
We all physically went inside to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and our air cleared. Within weeks, regions of the world with the highest levels of air pollution were seeing clear, clean air. Nature began to breathe again.
How did we respond to our isolation? The focus turned inward, and it was uncomfortable.
What did we see when that happened day after day? A growing realization of the interconnectedness to each other, to the Earth, to the Universe began to germinate. Amidst negative and fear-based energy, pockets of positivity and lightness appeared. Like a breath of fresh air, they cleansed us of anxiety and judgement. We began to let go of the emotions and belief systems that separated us from ourselves and each other.
Just as the personal journey of healing has moments of peace and calm and acceptance, so does it have moments of pain, wounds exposed, old beliefs triggered into reaction, and resistance to the unknown. We have made progress, but there is still a great deal of cleansing and purging to do to rid ourselves of the conventions that no longer serve humanity—the conventions that are smothering us as we move toward unity.
This is where we find ourselves now.
As individuals, we can only suffocate and suppress our feelings and vulnerabilities for so long before the repression turns toxic. That energy, like the breath in our lungs, has to be released. The choice is ours whether we acknowledge and release it in a healthy, constructive manner—or resist it, creating a furnace of conflict and pain and frustration.
Our choice ripples out into the collective. Each time we choose acknowledgment and acceptance we all get closer to the goal of positive change. When we choose resistance, the push for releasing of the old does not disappear. It only makes the process more painful.
The dust storm clouds the light, dulling the colors and snuffing out the outlines on the horizon. We find ourselves squinting to look ahead rather than focusing on what has so clearly been placed at our feet.
The Universe is always sending us messages. At what point will we acknowledge them? When will we see the pattern within them?
Can we see the commonality in relieving the pressure of each challenge?
We are the commonality. A commUnity of independent beings working together through acceptance, kindness, empathy, responsibility, and compassion. Working together so that we each can breathe freely and fully.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” ~ Gandhi