Words of Wonderbreathe - Lynn Ungar

Breathe, said the wind

How can I breathe at a time like this,
when the air is full of the smoke
of burning tires, burning lives?

Just breathe, the wind insisted.

Easy for you to say, if the weight of
injustice is not wrapped around your throat,
cutting off all air.

I need you to breathe.

I need you to breathe.

Don’t tell me to be calm
when there are so many reasons
to be angry, so much cause for despair!

I didn’t say to be calm, said the wind,
I said to breathe.

We’re going to need a lot of air
to make this hurricane together.

by Lynn Ungar


This poem by one of my favourite poets, the Unitarian Universalist minister Lynn Ungar, has been travelling with me for a few years now, and it feels like an encouragement in so many ways. Following on from last week’s poem how to breathe when you want to give up, there’s an honouring of the power of our breath. Jon Kabat Zinn is famous for saying that as long as we’re breathing, there’s more right with us than wrong with us – so there’s that fundamental goodness of life itself as well as the lifegiving condition to make anything happen.

It also feels like an encouragement to look after ourselves well: we need to be at least somewhat resourced to have the energy to contribute to a powerful movement of change. Especially in challenging circumstances I often don’t find it easy to prioritise doing the things that I know will fill my reserves to draw on later (MIND as well as many other sources on the www have wonderful suggestions for self-care) – but remembering the logic and sense of it does help!

And then there’s the encouragement to reach out and connect with others. Alone there’s only so much I can do, so much air that can come into and out of my lungs, but together… we can make a hurricane! Joanna Macy often get people to reflect on ‘what are you part of’. Many analogies and examples there – the drop that’s part of the wave, a single bird that’s part of a murmeration, Rosa Parks within the civil rights movement. Reflecting in this way can liberate us from the thought that whatever we’re doing doesn’t have much power and isn’t enough, because we may just be part of something much bigger… and may it bring goodness to us all!



Photo by Joshua Gresham on Unsplash