To breathe is to live, and without breath there is no life. Not only are the higher animals dependent upon breath for life and health, but even the lower forms of animal life must breathe to live, and plant life is likewise dependent upon the air for continued existence. The infant draws in a long, deep breath, retains it for a moment to extract from it its life-giving properties, and then exhales it in a long wail, and lo! its life upon earth has begun. The old man gives a faint gasp, ceases to breathe, and life is over. From the first faint breath of the infant to the last gasp of the dying man, it is one long story of continued breathing. Life is but a series of breaths.
We, however, take air for granted. To take something “for granted” is to be certain of the status quo—an impossibility in a world of infinite novelty.
Man in his normal state had no need of instruction in breathing. Like the lower animal and the child, he breathed naturally and properly, as nature intended him to do, but civilization has changed us in this and other respects. We have contracted improper methods and attitudes of walking, standing and sitting, which have robbed us of our birthright of natural and correct breathing. Ultimately, we have paid a high price for civilization. The savage, today, breathes naturally, unless he has been contaminated by the habits of civilized man.
The percentage of civilized men who breathe correctly is quite small, and the result is shown in contracted chests and stooping shoulders, and the terrible increase in diseases of the respiratory organs, including that dreaded monster, Consumption.
Thanks to new cars and power plants, air pollution is bad and getting worse in much of the world, and it’s taking a major toll on global health.
According to a new analysis published in the Lancet, more than 3.2 million people suffered premature deaths from air pollution in 2010, the largest number on record. That’s up from 800,000 in 2000. And it’s a regional problem: 65% of those deaths occurred in Asia, where the air is choked by diesel soot from cars and trucks, as well as the smog from power plants and the dust from endless urban construction. In East Asia and China, 1.2 million people died, as well as another 712,000 in South Asia, including India. For the first time ever, air pollution is on the world’s top-10 list of killers, and it’s moving up the ranks faster than any other factor.
Pollution is an ever-growing threat to our planet and manifests itself most dramatically in its impact on the natural environment which surrounds us. But just as the trees are dying daily because of environmental pollution, so are we.
Walt Whitman, the great American poet, once said, “Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” And as a long summer now lies ahead, I am drawn again to the great outdoors and to the natural realm. Like many of you, it is a place I love to spend my time and where I feel closest to the Divine. Hiking a forest trail, mowing my lawn and smelling the sweet, pungent cut grass or swimming in the warm ocean, I am the most fulfilled. And in those times and spaces, I find contact with what it is that Whitman often wrote. We do not simply visit nature as tourists. We go back to it. Nature is our womb and our home. We are a part of the natural order and its elements are a part of us. I do not seek the stale religion of musty sanctuaries, ancient writings and tired platitudes. Mine is to seek a spirituality of growth and vitality and joy. It seeks understanding of the universe around me and also that which is deep within my mind and soul.
The results of “multitasking” caused by emails, texts, phone, tweets, and facebook, has revved up our brain so much that breathing is pushed aside. We wait to exhale because we don’t have time for it now. This reality has caused so much sickness and dis-ease, which is never cured, and the most obvious cure that is never found is just under the nose.
Air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, is a major environmental health problem affecting everyone in developed and developing countries alike.
Air pollution has been associated with a number of detrimental health effects for children. Another potentially substantive, but previously unappreciated, effect of air pollution on children is diminished academic performance, presumably resulting in reduced human capital accumulation and reduced future earnings.
Each one of us was not counted as a living person until we took our first breath. All life on the planet depends on healthy air to breathe, with just the right mix of oxygen for animals and carbon dioxide for plants.
Every living thing does it, but us humans are the only kind that forgets. Let me take a breath and back up. The average person takes about 23,000 breaths a day. That isn’t just a wide spectrum of guesstimates, that’s the “average” person, not the sedentary person or active person. To remember to breathe sounds simple, but many people do not allow themselves to do so properly.
Breathing may be considered the most important of all of the functions of the body, for, indeed, all the other functions depend upon it. We may exist some time without eating; a shorter time without drinking; but without breathing our existence may be measured by a few minutes.
And not only are we dependent upon Breath for life, but we are largely dependent upon correct habits of breathing for continued vitality and freedom from disease. An intelligent control of our breathing power will lengthen our days upon earth by giving us increased vitality and powers of resistance, and, on the other hand, unintelligent and careless breathing will tend to shorten our days, by decreasing our vitality and laying us open to disease.
The respiratory system has many distinctive design features, which show forth the providence of God. Breathing also illustrates our human vulnerability and complete dependence upon God. One easy experiment to show this is to try to hold our breath. For most of us, air hunger becomes painful well within a minute, and we would die in just a few more minutes if completely deprived of air. So, our breathing apparatus is one of our most vital systems—absolutely necessary to sustain us from moment to moment.
Religious traditions have long reflected upon the importance of breath as the primal manifestation of both Spirit in humans and of the Divine in the natural world. Moreover research scientists are providing us with cumulative evidence of how Earth’s atmosphere may operate as part of a self-regulating mechanism to sustain life on earth.
It may seem common sense that cleaner air should be linked to a longer life expectancy, but this is one of the first (very) clear links between cleaner air and life expectancy. Let me clarify, we know that high levels of air pollution and high levels of particles in the air are linked to health and life expectancy. What we didn’t know, before this study, was that even minor improvements in air quality can significantly improve health for an entire population. In other words, it is well worth it (from a health perspective) for cities to continue to improve air quality and reduce air pollution.
DISEASE never comes without a cause. Much of the sickness that we suffer from is the result of our disregard of natural law. When sickness comes, the way has been prepared and disease invited by the disregard of the laws of health. By avoiding wrong habits, there is a great deal that we can do to avoid sickness and at the same time improve our quality of life.
Even though we are constantly surrounded by air, millions of people suffer from a variety of illnesses because of a poor or insufficient supply of pure air. This is largely due to the fact that the vast majority of people do not breathe correctly. By failing to take advantage of this free but vital commodity, they are depriving themselves of the good health they might otherwise be enjoying. Few realize that how we breath is important; and even among those who do, many often forget to put good breathing habits into practice.
In order for the body to have a supply of good blood, the blood must have a good oxygen supply. It is, therefore, absolutely essential to fill the lungs when we breathe. Too often, people slip into poor breathing habits without realizing it. Most people practice what is known as half-breathing, only partially filling their lungs. Between 12 and 30 cu. in. of air are usually inhaled and exhaled in each inspiration. Though there is a certain amount of residual air that we can never exchange in breathing, we have available an additional 90 cu. in. of air that can be moved by deep breathing.
It is hard to believe, especially at mealtime, that it is possible for a person to live for five or six weeks without food, as long as they have water to drink. But, take away their water and a person can only live for a few days. Even more vital than food or water, however, is air. Take away the air that we breath and life can last no more than about six minutes.
Inhale… Exhale… A simple two-step process that even I am guilty of forgetting. Inhale through the nose and feel the fresh oxygen race through your insides, and exhale out the old air. We have to be able to breathe to live, and yet we forget how to do it or how to do it properly. In this sense, we are disconnected from our own bodies. We take breathing for granted.
“And the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.”
Breathing is part of a much larger design—the entire balance of life on Earth. People and animals must consume oxygen to live, giving off carbon dioxide as a waste gas. But plants mostly do the exact opposite. They take in CO2 and give off O2. This provides a constantly renewing balance in the atmosphere, so that the oxygen we need is never used up. It also provides us with a dependable and pleasing environment of greenery, flowers and food.
Breath is used in the Bible as a powerful symbol of the life-giving presence of God. Like God Himself, the air we breathe is invisible, odourless and tasteless—it cannot be perceived at all unless it moves. It is usually peaceful and still, but it is a reservoir of enormous power. The air is a massive ocean—invisible, yet completely necessary for our life, for we are quickly dead without it.
And remember when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lot I am creating a mortal out of potter’s clay of black mud altered. So, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My spirit . . . Qur’an 15:28-29
Breath is not synonymous with air, nor with oxygen. Breath is that which emerges from the divine origin and has as its essence the temperament of the celestial realms. Breath is a luminous substance, a ray of light; breath is the life force of God Himself!
Breath is the regulator of joy, sadness, delight, anger, jealousy, and other emotions. Both the quantity and quality of breath have a definite and direct effect upon human health. This is so because various physical events can alter or in a sense cover over the divine essence that is being conveyed on the breath. Industrial pollutants, alcoholic beverages, and various foods can all intermingle with the breath and disturb its intended purity of action.
Linking air pollution and adverse health effects and minimizing the risk from air pollution is complex and requires expertise across a range of scientific disciplines from atmospheric to exposure to health sciences as well as inclusion of air quality managers and policy makers who develop and implement policy related to reducing air pollution on national, regional, and local scales to protect public health and welfare.
Only in finding that soul of ours can we truly feel, experience and enjoy nature, other people and the essential elements of life. Air then becomes not just a physical vehicle for sustaining life, it is life – it is our soul and the souls of those all around us.
When we focus on the air and on our breathing, we touch our inner heart which cries and laughs, feels joy and pain and is the REAL us.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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