The process of breathing is a living metaphor for understanding how to expand our narrow sense of ourselves and be present to the healing energies that are both in and around us. Every time we inhale we take in some 1022 atoms, including approximately one million of the same atoms of air inhaled by Lao Tzu, Buddha, Christ, and everyone else who has ever lived on this earth. Every time we exhale, we return these atoms to the atmosphere to be renewed for both present and future generations. Every time we inhale, we absorb oxygen expelled into the atmosphere as a “waste product” by the earth’s plant life. Every time we exhale, we expel carbon dioxide as a “waste product” into the atmosphere where it can eventually be absorbed by this same plant life. In nature, nothing is wasted. Our breath is a link in the cosmic ecology—in the conservation, transformation, and exchange of substances in nature’s complex metabolism. It connects our so-called inner world with the vast scale of the outer world—of the earth and its atmosphere, as well as of all organic life—through the perceptible alternation of yin and yang, of negative and positive, of emptying and filling. The process of breathing, if we can begin to understand it in relation to the whole of life, shows us the way to let go of the old and open to the new. It shows us the way to experience who and what we actually are. It shows us the way to wholeness and well-being.
From “The Tao of Natural Breathing,” page 27, Copyright 1997 by Dennis Lewis