“I can’t breathe.”
This anguished cry echoes through our nation. It echoes through the video that shows George Floyd, an African-American man, being choked to death by a Minneapolis police officer. It reverberates through the streets of our cities as people from all backgrounds and races cry out against racial injustice. It resonates in the lives of too many of our neighbors who cannot breathe fully as long as they fear they will be seen as suspect because of the color of their skin.
Last night I attended a webinar about racial injustice that began and ended with an original song written by Jared K.F. Jones. “I can’t breathe,” he sang three times. “Spirit of life, breathe for me.” The next verse moved from the personal to the communal: “We can’t breathe,” he sang. “Spirit of life, breathe for us.”
This powerful song, written from a Christian perspective, resonates in many spiritual traditions. Breath and Spirit are intertwined; in some languages, they are actually the same word. As I heard the music, I found myself thinking about Open Spirit--about yoga and meditation and Qi Gong gatherings that start with breathing together, about lessons our Nourishing Teacher-Strengthening Classrooms leaders have offered teachers and students about the power of breath to calm and focus our lives.
What does it mean to breathe deeply in a society where too many people cannot breathe? What does it mean for Open Spirit to live our our mission in this time of pain and outrage and heightened awareness of injustice that has existed for centuries?
I find myself coming back to our mission statement:
At Open Spirit, we come together with open hearts to:
• Celebrate and deepen understanding of our diverse spiritual and cultural traditions;
• Enable healing of body, mind, spirit and earth;
• Inspire courage to transform our lives and our communities.
Each of these three components calls us to respond to the pain of this time.
We seek to deepen understanding. In this time, we are challenged to listen ever more deeply, especially to voices that have not often been heard. We need to hear the stories of our African-American neighbors--stories of pain at injustice and prejudice, stories of betrayal by the institutions that are supposed to keep us all safe, and also stories of courage, perseverance and wisdom.
We seek to enable healing. We are challenged to breath with and for one another, to cultivate inner calm and self-awareness, so we can heal from the deep-rooted prejudices and assumptions we have absorbed from a racist society.
We seek to inspire courage. We are challenged to be bold, to say NO to racism and prejudice, to speak out against injustice, to stand with our neighbors when they feel threatened, to persevere on the long, hard journey of transforming our lives and our communities.
May we commit ourselves to deepening understanding, enabling healing and inspiring courage-- until everyone can breathe.