Inspiration: A Breath Away
May 30, 2013 10:59AM
● By By Trella Dubetz
Inspiration may be defined as something or someone that moves us intellectually or emotionally or that affects our opinions; perhaps it is even a touch by divinity or a sacred revelation. Yet, the word also refers to the act of drawing air into the lungs, the action of inhaling during respiration.
When one thinks of great inspirations, we may think of fascinating people such as Michelangelo, Amelia Earhart, Mahatma Gandhi or Maya Angelou. These men and women had a worldwide influence on social, cultural and political levels, but as each of us strives to create a better world, searching for that which calls our mind, body and spirit to create positive change, where do we begin?
Many spiritual traditions echo an eloquent statement of the Taoist Lao Tzu: “If you want to awaken all humanity, then awaken all of yourself; if you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”
Awakening the self, eliminating the internal dark and negative and navigat- ing the road of self-transformation—to-gether, these may sound like an impossible feat. Yet, if one is inspired, these tasks seem that much less daunting, because inspiration illuminates the way. So where can we find spirit-nourishing, mind-calming, body-quenching inspiration? The good news is that we were born with it, and we have not stopped doing it since.
Breathing, the act of drawing in the world around us through the body, is the elemental source for inspiration. With conscious awareness, one breath at a time, we begin to open and change. As we mindfully draw upon the oxygenated abundance that the trees and plants offer us daily, we connect to ourselves, our world, our loved ones and strangers in a different, if subtle way. It is in those consciousness-raising moments, breath by breath, that greater, sweeter and more joyous living can evolve for oneself, humanity and nature.
Although this act of consciously breathing and mindful inspiration can be as simple as sitting outside or on the bedroom floor and exploring how your breath moves in and out of the body, many classes and traditions incorporate breath work into their rhythm. One such practice in Lancaster city is a Bud- dhist meditation led by Dr. Christopher Peterson, a Buddhist priest and anes- thesiologist who has been leading the practice at Franklin & Marshall College for more than five years, and is currently sharing it from his home in the city.
When asked how breath work is incorporated into his practice, Peterson shares, “Each in-breath can represent our first breath as we enter the world for the first time. Symbolically we are born again and again, and life maintains a freshness, excitement and opportunity to transform ourselves. Each out-breath can symbolize our last breath on this Earth. Realizing that our life is fleeting, we can make a choice to live fully and appreciate its preciousness.”
Peterson further contextualizes breath work within the lineage of his Buddhist teachings and his daily practice and way of life, saying, “Breath is actually only one part of my practice. When sitting in meditation, one is taught to calm and focus the mind. This is hard at first, so teachers have taught [ways] to focus one’s attention. Something that is always present is our breath, so it is a great thing to gently notice and place our attention upon. This could be considered Buddhist upa- ya, or skillful means. We are using the breath as a means to calm and focus our mind. In day-to-day off-the-cushion practice, we can use the presence of the breath to ground us in the place of clarity and wisdom, rather than living unconsciously from our conditioned self. We can use it to anchor us during times that we are hooked by strong emotions.”
Peterson’s succinct and wise reflections about the grandness of the breath echo the scope of meanings of inspiration. Breath is a divine influence and action. It has the power to move our intellect and emotion, influencing our actions and those of others, and all of these meanings can be unlocked by the gorgeously simple act of drawing in, or inspiring, air deep within us. So take a deep, gentle breath, settle in and receive that symphony of inspiration.
Dr. Christopher Peterson and his Zen gatherings run from 7 to 8 p.m., Wednesdays, at the Joseph International Center of Franklin & Marshall College. His other local offerings can be found at CollegeZen.org.
Trella Dubetz lives in Lancaster City and facilitates a mind-body therapy practice at Sage Massage & Wellness, in Millersville. Connect with her at 717-468-7523 or visit TrellaDubetz.com.