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Transformative breathing


Last month, after weeks of news about the plummeting quality of our air in the Triangle, The News & Observer ran a little "love letter" to the auto industry. This gushing little piece arrived in the format of an article in the Auto section about the exciting new breed of bigger, and more powerful sport utility vehicles coming to market. Nowhere in the story was any mention of the lack of CAFÉ standards for SUVs or even of the mileage these gas hogs won't get per gallon. The very moment I finished this article, my friendly morning WUNC radio guy announced that it would be another code orange ozone day.

After 20 minutes of ranting, my partner peered over his coffee cup and informed me I'm becoming an "angry old man." He suggested that if my behavior keeps up, he's going to forbid my reading the morning paper, especially the editorial page (which usually elicits more angry ranting than the auto section).

During deep yoga class that night, I shared with my fellow classmates my growing anger about our declining air quality in the Triangle and my frustration with not knowing what to do with that anger. Joy Yoga instructor Donna suggested transformative breathing. In the Tibetan style we all sat, doing our best deep breathing, visualizing that we were breathing in our "anger" and breathing out "spaciousness." After a few minutes we expanded our visualization to include not just our own anger, but that of others around us: Breathing in, transforming it, and breathing out spaciousness (or joy, or happiness, or whatever worked for us). After a few more minutes we expanded again to include not just our room, but the community beyond our walls. No matter if it was the mental exercise, or the deep breathing, or some true spiritual shift within me or the cosmos, I felt better after class. I drove home in a new state of peace.

A couple weeks ago, North Carolina Now on UNC-TV broadcast a story about emerging new technologies to handle hog waste that will move North Carolina away from environmentally unsafe and stinky hog lagoons (and it is the stink these lagoons produce that upset hog farm neighbors the most). Unfortunately, as the show pointed out, these technologies are years away. In the meantime, the hog industry is lobbying to increase production while remaining resistant to the more expensive new technologies. In mid-rant, my partner suggested that PBS might soon be off limits to me as well. In order to keep my viewing privileges, I again practiced my transformative breathing. Again it had a calming, peace-inducing effect.

Last month, the North Carolina General Assembly bowed to the oil lobby and voted to delay, until 2007, legislation that would have mandated lower sulfur content in our gasoline, making it cleaner. I didn't even start to rant; I just closed my eyes and started breathing. It took me longer than usual, and I think I was breathing way too fast, but I eventually calmed down.

Today at lunch, a woman in the booth behind me lit up a cigarette in the "no smoking" section. The third time I've been privy to such behavior in as many weeks. The stink ruined my meal. I'm transformatively breathing as fast as I can.

While I still can.

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