But what if it is more than just that? Being afraid that we or those we love might die is big enough, but what if there is more to the feelings of dread and anxiety that surround us every day? I would like to introduce a concept, as manifestly self-evident at some levels as it may be, but that presents itself to me as a framework for better utilizing my breath as a supporting, even strengthening, practice. I see an essential link between two germinating instruments at the core of life itself – breath and connection. By breath, I mean exactly what it is – the taking in of air through the exercise of our diaphragm and lung tissues for the purpose of oxygenating our blood which is then utilized as fuel at the cellular level. By connection, I mean the living fabric of the universe, that primal, ethereal bond between one’s self and other through a relational, energetic exchange that is both life giving and life sustaining. It is in our nature to do both, breathe and connect, enabling life through our breath and relationships. Now bear with me. On the surface this notion seems obvious, “No kidding, David…we need to breathe in order to live…and relationships are kind of important too. I get it.” But let us look deeper.
Given this link between breathing and relationship, we can see a dynamic in the global response to this pandemic that challenges the very fiber of our being. We are terrified of dying through a loss of our ability to breathe and our response to this threat is to isolate ourselves in ways that sever relational connections. As Earth-honoring practitioners of cross-cultural shamanism, we accept certain fundamental principles that define our reality. Chief among these is that the universe is a living, energetic fabric of interconnected, interdependent manifestations of sentient beings. We acknowledge that Mother Earth, Pachamama, has breath. We acknowledge that we are inextricably connected, inseparable, from Her. While we as individuals, or as a society, may not always recognize the immediacy of this interdependent relationship, it exists nonetheless. For his reason, we strain to live by the axiom of “Right action, borne of compassionate spiritual wisdom, unites” – llankay munay yuyay kanchay hunuy. Herein lies the medicine.
About the Author
An awestruck husband to an amazing woman, and grateful father to two phenomenal teenagers, David is a soccer player and coach, wilderness guide, counselor, teacher, and non-profit administrator. He has devoted himself to the walk and talk of living a scared path. He completed the PMT 5-part apprenticeship under the guidance of Cynthia Greer, and more recently completed don Oscar Miro-Quesada’s Magic, Medicine, and Mysticism course. David holds a Master of Theological Studies degree from Emory University where he specialized in medieval spirituality, and a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from Prescott College. While at Prescott, he developed an original integrative therapeutic model called “Gaian Soul Therapy” that synthesizes ecology, theology, and psychology as a means of healing self, community, and the natural world through right relationship. He is a licensed professional counselor with certifications in clinical supervision and trauma. David works full-time as the director of a community mental health center near Atlanta and part-time as the owner and operator of the newly formed Burning Bear Healing Arts, LLC, offering psychotherapy, supervision, spiritual direction, and shamanic ceremonial healing. He lives and works in Decatur, Georgia, not far from his hometown of Stone Mountain.