On Sunday night I was driving down Park Avenue when I saw brake lights ahead of me. There was a young woman lying in the road, and there was another woman kneeling over her. There was a mangled bike there, too. I stopped the car, put on my flashers, and ran over to the women. The biker had not been wearing a helmet. She was hurt and she kept trying to get up. We tried to hold her down and convince her to stay there, but she was confused and scared and she wanted to be upright. Being upright helps us to see things more clearly, to recognize the order around us, to find our place - she wanted to make sense of what had happened, to see it from a higher vantage point. As she struggled, we tried to soothe her. We fell back on the most basic tool we had - we tried to get her to breathe. She had a yoga mat with her and I asked her if she had been to yoga that night and if she could remember how to breathe like she did in yoga. She breathed, she calmed down, and the paramedics came and took her away. (After a quick exam, they said that she seemed to be in good shape with superficial injuries and a concussion.)
As I drove home, I kept seeing her bellybutton in my mind. I had been holding her legs, watching her belly to make sure she was breathing deeply. Her breath was what stayed with me.
Underneath everything - our clothes, our love or hate for our bodies, our jobs and kids and friends and commitments, under our and joys and our pains, we have our breath. It unites us. It is the most basic thing we need to survive. Our breath gives us strength and peace. It gives us laughter, lets us scream our pain and whisper our love and fears. Sometimes, it seems to be all we have. Sometimes it is all we have. Take a moment today to feel your breath, to recognize it's power. Breathe deeply.