My plan for March and April was to get started on a book based on the Leadership Yoga workshop I’ve taught for many years. And then, we got to mid-March and all sorts of plans changed. I believe, hope, the ideas in the Leadership Workshop are worthwhile and particularly helpful in stressful times. However, writing a book, while useful for the longer-term, wasn’t going to be much use immediately. That’s why I created a ten-week series on Leadership Yoga which wrapped up at the end of May. (All of those posts and meditations are still available to you on the blog on my website.) Now the plan is to take that work and turn it into the book.
For the 10-week series, the book, and any yoga class I teach, I begin with a focus on the breath. Thus, in late March and early April, I was writing about the importance of paying attention to our breathing as hospitals across the country and the world were crying out for ventilators for the thousands of people who were struggling to breathe. This week, I found myself again writing about and reflecting on the act of breathing as thousands of people across the world gathered together, accepting the risks of COVID-19, to echo the cries of George Floyd, Eric Garner, and countless others whose names we don’t know, “I can’t breathe.”
And so for today a simple reminder that many of us may be struggling to breathe in a metaphorical sense. For others, the literal tightness in our chests may be caused by illness or anxiety – both make breathing difficult. Like the pulse of our heartbeat, most of us take the ability to breathe for granted. It’s not something we pay much attention to in the course of the normal day. But these aren’t normal days and so I encourage you to listen to your own breathing these days. Cherish that ability to breathe. When you can, take a deep belly breath and let it out slowly. A deep exhalation is calming to our nervous system. And everyone needs moments of calm right now. Those moments of calm are what make it possible to keep doing the difficult and important work we are all called to do every day. And as always, remember to take care of yourself. It’s what makes it possible to keep taking care of others.
*I remembered this line from Emma Lazarus’ poem (reprinted below) about the Statue of Liberty and it seemed to capture this moment in time for me.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883
Emma Lazarus (July 22, 1849 – November 19, 1887) was an American author of poetry, prose, and translations, as well as an activist for Jewish causes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Lazarus