I Can’t Breathe


I am reminded of the many occasions when I have felt helpless and so contained in my emotions that I was unable to take a breath. Once I woke up after surgery and had a panic attack, screaming that I couldn’t breathe. In attempting to understand what was going on, the medical team came to my aid and calmly encouraged me to take slow breaths and calm down. Initially I didn’t listen to their advice, but when I looked over at my new-born baby, I instantly knew that I had to stay alive and fight on. I slowly calmed down, one gasp after another, until my heart rate stabilized.

In that instant, I was grateful for my ability to breathe. In fact, I was able to feel myself doing it, and I practised being aware of it throughout my stay at the hospital. What I learnt was simply that in moments of panic, I am conscious of my breathing; as soon as I get into the routines of daily life, my breathing is usually on autopilot. Until lately, I had taken breathing for granted and paid little attention to it. In fact, being tied to your breath is an intimate and profound thing. The act of breathing is an astonishing and miraculous process. Our very lives depend on breathing regularly, and for the most part we forget and disconnect from this important relationship with our bodies.

Thus, in recent weeks, and with all that is going on in our world. The cry of “I can’t breathe” is deeply meaningful to me. This outcry reflects the condition of man, the evolution of human emotion, and our power to respond with compassion and empathy to each other’s pain and sometimes frustration.  The way we map out the right path and ultimately create a more inclusive and peaceful future is fundamental in helping us breathe much more easily as a society.

Without the breath of life, we are lifeless. When we are disconnected from the different members of our communities, we lose sight of the bigger plan for humans. Our total existence needs to be profoundly rooted in love. God is love, his love breathes life into us and through us, and animates us. It is in this existence that we can truly breathe and form a unified alliance, and stand firm against hate and weed out from the roots all that is built on a foundation of hate. It is in this existence that we can exhale when the challenges of life overwhelm us, it is this breath that revives us in moments when we cannot breathe. In him we live and breathe and indeed have our being. So, in our moments of frustration, panic, and uncertainty, I pray that we can take a deep breath and allow God’s breath to energize our situation so we can truly live again.

I pray for love and light. Let our path be lit up so we can see the road ahead.  

This post is dedicated to memory of George Floyd.

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