It can all be too much. The climate crisis, the great Pacific garbage patch, more tigers captive in Texas than there are in the wild. Can this be recycled? How can I get take-out sushi without more plastic? Can I even get sustainably caught sushi?
Hit pause. Take a breath, and then another, long and slow. In and out. As natural as life itself. That’s all it takes. Slow things down, take a moment to connect. Connect with our bodies, with nature and with ourselves. When we do this we see that solutions are all around us.
The answers are in nature - in that breath. That unseen matrix that
connects us to all life, through all time.
“Invisible and indivisible, air is a place without borders or owners, shared by all life
on Earth. It is the rightful inheritance of all future generations, the matrix that has
shaped the course of evolution. Air binds us all together as a single living entity
extending through time and space. Each one of us, past, present, and future, needs
air every minute of every day we live.” [i]
Air binds us together and connects us to the answers in the natural system that we are a part of. If we take time to understand how natural systems work, and how we can work with them rather than against them, we will find the answers to our climate crisis, to our waste problems, to the growing discontentment with pressures to have, and be, and do, more.
Research shows that there are tangible health benefits of hitting pause on our routines and taking a few deep breaths. Our heart rate drops, blood pressure lowers almost immediately, the brain is flooded with oxygen and our creativity increases while anxiety drops.[ii] If we do this deep breathing in nature the benefits are multiplied. We see positive effects on our immune systems and learning.[iii] Studies on the health benefits of deep breathing in the forest have been explored for decades already. And you probably have already noticed this yourself, the age-old saying, “take a breath” when confronting a challenge really does help most situations.
It is what I did instinctively on September 3rd, 2013 at the age of 42 as I sat in my doctor’s office and she walked in briskly to give me the results, “it’s positive”…wait, that’s good, right? Wrong. “It is cancer”. What? This wasn’t the plan – well, of course, it is not anyone’s PLAN! But I felt fine! I was just doing my due diligence by investigating that little lump. So, I ask a few more meaningless questions, and before I cry or dare to look at my husband I sit there, back straight, take a big deep breath in and a long slow exhale through my pursed lips and say, “Ok, where to next?”
Those big, slow deep breaths served me well over the next 5 years as cancer was a major focus of my life. They didn’t solve what was before me, but they helped. Sometimes deep breathing was prescribed when I recovered from surgeries, and sometimes it just helped me move forward, as I tried to be patient with my body, or as I coped with the grief and loss that comes with hanging around with friends who have cancer.
Researchers have found that deep breathing is one of the most immediate ways to calm the nervous system, whether it be during our yoga practice or as we step outdoors or just pause while working. Sometimes called the “Relaxation Response” a term coined by Herbert Benson, the Harvard Research Physician who gave meditation this scientific term and studied its effects on the body first showed through documented research that simple breathing techniques can have measurable positive effects on our bodies and minds.
Take this time to connect.
Breathing is one of the tangible ways in which we connect with the natural world. We can think about the breath as our connection to all green plants, synthesizing oxygen and our exhalation of Carbon Dioxide that will be taken up in plant respiration. Our part in the natural cycle, our connection to all life on earth, past and present. The molecules remain, cycling through them and through us. Plants and animals, fish and water and soil and rocks, we are all a part of this system. Our breath reminds us of this connection.
As written in The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki and Amanda McConnell, “Every breath is a sacrament, an essential ritual. As we imbibe this sacred element,
we are physically linked to all of our present biological relatives, countless
generations that have preceded us and those that will follow.” [iv]
So, as we work to find solutions to the problems that we face, whether it is the climate crisis, plastic pollution, a personal calamity, or just a really hectic day, take time to breathe; to connect with your body and the wisdom of the natural systems that we are all a part of. Solutions exist. We will find them. Start with a mindful, connecting breath.
Find a quiet place to stand, sit or lay down. If you are sitting, allow the back of your chair or bench to support you so that your abdomen can relax a little.
[i] Suzuki, D., McConnell, A. (1997). The Sacred Balance. Vancouver: Greystone Books. p. 50
[ii] Harvard Health Publishing. (Updated 3 April 2018). Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response. Retrieved from
[iii] Louv, R. The Nature Principle. (2012). New York City: Algonquin Books.
[iv] Suzuki, D., McConnell, A. (1997). The Sacred Balance. Vancouver: Greystone Books. p. 51
Join my mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. Your information will not be shared.