Dum Spiro Spero = While I breathe, I hope
South Carolina’s state motto
Most of us don’t think about breathing. We just do it.
I heard a lecture by an emergency medical professional who said the two most important, life-and-death issues that must be dealt with in a crisis are breathing and blood circulation. You will not continue to live if your breath or your blood flow ceases.
The theology of the Jewish faith claims life begins at the first breath. When God breathed into Adam, he lived. Before that, he was mud. After their last breath, humans immediately begin the process of returning to dust. Humans can stay alive in a coma or even a vegetative state as long as breath and circulation of blood is maintained.
According to Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, when God created the earth, it was God’s breath (“RUAH” in the Hebrew language) which began the process. In the New Testament, the name given to the third member of the trinity is “Holy Breath,” translated more familiarly as the Holy Spirit.
Since I’ve been taking yoga, every session calls attention to our breath, breathe in, breathe out. Sometimes, for me, it’s more like gasp in, gasp out. At other times, the operative word might be wheeze, pant, or groan, but the idea is the same, the intake of air, putting oxygen into my blood stream, and the expulsion of carbon dioxide.
As a pastor and counselor, I learned to pay attention to breath. A yawn could indicate boredom. A person seething through clinched teeth was obviously angry. A sigh, on the other hand, was often the signal that someone was letting go of something, that they were making peace with a new reality. New life.
It’s all about the breath.