I've been sick.  I hate saying that, because I think of myself as a healthy person.  Robust, even.  But the fact is that I have asthma, and insidiously, like a slowly leaking tire over a period of weeks, my ability to breathe ebbed away.
     In hindsight, I see that the most debilitating aspect of not getting enough air with each breath was stress.  I didn't now how sick I was.  But I knew that everyone in my family was demanding too much of me, dammit.  I knew that I should exercise more because my wheezing meant I was out of shape, that I should get back to meditation but I didn't have time, and why didn't someone else cook dinner for once, why couldn't I get this business plan under way, and how did a one-hour snow tire changeover turn into a three-hour several-hundred-dollar brake job?
     Stress kept me sick. Its shrapnel wounded others close to me, yet I kept detonating even as I knew I wanted love and understanding instead. In a way, stress kept me in a cycle of hurting myself, through action and inaction. I was stuck.
      Now that I am better, I've been wondering: Can a whole culture be stuck in the vicious cycle of stress and compromised breathing?
      I thought about the horrendous air pollution in China that Andrew used as a case study for a school project. I thought about the U.S. Lung Association's 2014 State of the Air report data grading Washington DC with an F for ozone pollution and a D for 24-hour particle pollution. I thought about corporations located in largely polluted urban areas (Wichita, where Koch Industries is headquartered, also got an F for ozone pollution).
      Is it possible that the powerful people in our global government and financial structures are literally sick with stress because they can't breath well? Like me, they don't recognize how sick they are, but they show the same symptoms of righteous self-absorption and blaming others for their failures. And because it is a vicious cycle, they can't take action to halt the CO2 emissions causing climate chaos, which worsens their – and all of our – ability to breathe.
      Stop. Inhale. Exhale. There is a reason that so many wisdom traditions stress the breath: Ruach – the Hebrew word for spirit also means wind and breath. From the Hindu: yoga. Buddhist meditation. Hymn singing on Sunday mornings.
      We know what to do. We have to breathe to heal ourselves. And this is not a bumper sticker solution. This is real. A culture is built of individuals with shared characteristics. And so we need to find a way, each of us as individuals, to start breathing more slowly, more deeply, for a little while each day, in order to change our culture.
      Somehow I still have hope. I was losing it when I was sick. I'm breathing again now. Let's make it contagious.

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