At this time of year it is almost a "given" that the day will begin and end with howling winds rushing through the desert canyons. As I woke up this morning, I could hear the roar of those winds announcing the rising of the sun. They sound fierce and frightening. They also sound exciting, so full of life and energy as they dance around the desert floor - the wind chimes around my house ringing out loudly to signal their arrival (the desert isn't a place where you are likely to "sleep in" even on a Sunday morning).
The blowing wind makes me pay attention to something we all take for granted. It focuses me on the air we all automatically breathe in and breath out every moment of every day in order to keep alive. As I sit here at daybreak listening to the wind rushing over me, I am paying attention to the air I breathe.
I remember a recent TED talk given by a prominent biologist.
Take a deep breath, the yogis had it right - breath does in fact, connect us all in a very literal way. Take a deep breath now, and as you breathe, think about what is in your breath. There, perhaps, is the CO2 from a person who may be sitting near you. Maybe there's a little bit of oxygen from some algae on a beach not far from you. It all connects us in time. There may even be some carbon in your breath from the dinosaurs. There could also be carbon that you are exhaling now that will be in the breath of your great, great grandchildren.
There are thousands of books about meditation and contemplation - even more "self help" books offering various techniques for stress reduction. In every one of these books there is always some sort of advice about "breathing techniques." Advice on how to focus on the in-breath and the out-breath, advice for counting the breaths - a whole array of "techniques"to help you focus while meditating, and to feel more tranquil and less stressed out.
But I think "paying attention to breathing" is far more than a stress reduction or meditation "technique." The very air we breathe literally and physically connects everything and everyone that ever was, is, or ever will be.
When I pay attention to the air I breathe, I am being mindfully aware of the universe. The simple act of breathing that we all do every moment of every day in order to keep alive is always a "cosmic" event.
Maybe that's why I have grown to love those moments when the winds come rushing into the desert at the break of day. They are the winds of life ushering in the universe, a love song sung by an Abiding Holy Presence, flowing in it all and blowing through it all.
As I sit in my garden, the winds are swirling and dancing all around me on this Sunday morning. They are singing that terrifying beautiful song of "life." As I breathe in, I breathe in all that "is" - the mountains and the skies, the spring blossoms along the wilderness trail, all the desert creatures who walk and crawl and fly all around me. As I breathe in, I breathe in my loved ones, neighbors, strangers I have never met in so-called "foreign lands."
I breathe in all that "is," all that ever "was" and all that is "yet to be."
As the winds of life blow into me, I also breathe out into them - my breath, my carbon, out there into the vast sea of cosmic interconnection. My breath, a breath that may be inhaled by my great great grandchildren some day, long after I am gone.
I am overwhelmed by the thought of it all as I find myself humming an old Bob Dylan song,
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Indeed, it is!