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Exhaling My Prayer Breath

On January 29th I received my first Pfizer vaccine shot. On February 19th, I received the second shot. Two weeks later, I could finally begin to breathe deeply again. How long had I been holding my prayer breath?

I didn’t realize how long I had been shallow breathing… more than 11 months, beginning when we first were forced to shelter in place. And for many of us, there may have been psychic, physiological and spiritual effects of a year of pandemic and social isolation. Living under the threat of COVID over the past year, we have been reluctant to breathe deeply. Inhale…and we may be exposing ourselves to COVID. Exhale…and we may be exposing others to COVID.

The word “liberating” comes to mind for me. I felt liberated and downright jubilant after being fully vaccinated. New energy within coursing through my body, it almost felt like I had taken Geritol – that iron and vitamin B tonic that was promoted for tired blood of weary housewives in the 50’s and 60’s. (Actually, I think it was the 12% alcohol that did the trick!)

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminded us that “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” Inhaling and exhaling…slowly…deliberately. Inhaling life…exhaling life. Thank God, I finally can breathe again. Thank God, I am alive.

But in the midst of my own exhalation of relief, let me not forget George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who on May 25, 2020 cried out “I can’t breathe” as a knee was pressed on his neck for 9 minutes and 46 seconds. Yes, my friends, the breath of life is oh so very precious, and not to be taken for granted.

As we continue to journey together through this pandemic, let me leave you with this poem by Dana Fauds:

Breath of Life

I breathe in All That is-
Awareness expanding
To take everything in,
As if my heart beats
the world into being.
From the unnamed vastness beneath the
mind, I breathe my way to wholeness and healing.
Inhalation.
Exhalation.
Each Breath a “yes”
and a letting go, a journey, and a coming home.

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