The subject of miracles has been on my mind lately. It came about as I was talking about the breath—the inhale and exhale that we so mindfully attune to in yoga classes. The breath is an amazing thing. It’s what keeps us alive; for the most part it is unconscious—we don’t have to think about it—and often we take it for granted. It seems a miracle to me that we can contract or expand some muscles, breathe in a few elements (most notably oxygen and nitrogen), swoosh them around our bodies via the circulatory system, exhale them back out into the atmosphere, and go about our day. According to one newspaper article, on average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year.
The person who lives to 80 will take about 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime!
In it’s most simplistic form, we take a breath in through our mouths/noses, it goes down the throat (trachea) toward the lungs, where it branches off into smaller and smaller “tubes,” until it reaches the very bottom of the lungs where an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs in these teeny tiny little air sacs called alveoli. Have I lost you yet?
Now, picture your beautiful lungs as upside down trees: the trunk branching off into smaller and smaller branches until its leaves reach out and exchange life sustaining nutrients. Then think of the amazing design of this world where animals (including humans) breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, and trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. So now I start to think that trees are pretty miraculous…taking in our waste products and releasing what we so desperately need to live. And suddenly I have a new appreciation for my breath, and for the trees, and for the rain falling that feeds the trees and connects me to everything and everyone else in the world, and I realize that I don’t need to “see a miracle” in some weird and mysterious way to believe in them. I believe in them because they are everywhere.
Deepak Chopra said, “At this moment, you are seamlessly flowing with the cosmos. There is no difference between your breathing and the breathing of the rain forest, between your bloodstream and the world’s rivers, between your bones and the chalk cliffs of Dover.” And Jon Bon Jovi (yes, the musician) said, “Miracles happen everyday. Change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”
I think we forget, sometimes, that miracles are all around us: the push of a weed through a concrete forest; the bursting of a baby through the birth canal; the fragility of a bird’s egg or a broken heart; the way a friend knows you need them without you saying so. Or the way the sun comes up every single day; the way our pulses and our breaths synchronize when in the same room, the way a kind word can heal and a big hug can soothe even the worst day.
What if miracles were that simple? What if we knew we were each capable of performing miracles every single day? What if we changed our perception and released the outdated and untrue idea that we are too small to make a difference?
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
So when you wake up tomorrow morning (or maybe start now), marvel at the miracle of your breath and celebrate another day. Step out into the world with your own two eyes and see everything for the miracle it is, knowing that you, too, are among them. Take a deep breath and be filled with gratitude, then look at the nearest tree and thank it for sharing…
With gratitude always.
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment,health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.