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"Breathe"

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

I am in a writing group that meets at 7 am every morning for a daily meditation and a write. The meditation is led by our mentor who plays a harmonium as she leads us through. The sound of the one note grounding my soul. Which has become a necessity with the insanity of our current climate. To mentally escape the chaos, pain and uncertainty. The clucking of division. The difference of opinions. The fear. The election and state of our nation. Racism.

In the mornings, before my household wakes up, I sneak downstairs to prepare a breakfast for my son, anticipating his arrival. He usually, comes down mid meditation, while I have my headphones on. His ritual is to turn on the television, that is automatically set to Spectrum news when it goes on. It will stay on the news as he looks through the recorded "Wild Kratts" shows until he finds an episode he wants. I try to welcome the outside noise and allow whatever happens around me as I focus on my practice. Meanwhile, I continue to breathe and focus on my mentors voice and the harmonium in my headset.


As the meditation begins this morning, I hear his foot steps as I hear the harmonium play, while she says calmly, “Notice your breath. Go inward.”


As I inhale, I hear my son pick up the remote off the table as she continues, “Be present. In this moment.”


The television turns on as I deeply inhale. Allowing. I hear a reporter say past the monotone sound of the harmonium, “Another minority shot by a police officer.”


The hair on my arms and neck stands on end. Images immediately race through my mind of pictures of men and woman who have fallen to the same circumstance. Breonna. George. Now Jacob. The movement. The protesting. The vision of Ahmaud Arbery jogging down the street as he is filmed by a trailing truck. A trailing truck knowing his fate. Knowing this innocent, unarmed black man is about to die. Purposefully filming as if to relive his brutal, unwarranted death over and over.


Her voice continues in my headset, “Notice the rise and fall. Observe the in and out.”


I picture Breonna Taylor getting brutally gun downed in her bed. As she slept. An EMT resting from a hard day of saving lives, while going to her home where no one can save hers. As police unexpectedly barge in without warning. Into her bedroom. Firing blindly inside. While she sleeps. Awakening to a hail of gunfire.


“Breathe in and out. Breathe.” She continues the meditation.

While the image of George Floyd face down on the pavement takes center stage in my mind. Vividly hearing him yell out with labored breath, “I can’t breathe!... I can’t breathe!”

Begging as a knee, with the weight of a grown man, driven in the back of his neck. Seeing the panic in George’s eyes as he foresees his near future. As his pleas fall on deaf ears. As the officers do nothing, but watch or help hold down the rest of his body. While bystanders stand filming. Thank God, filming. But picturing them from his point of view. How that must have felt. Seeing them hold their cameras, as he struggles to breathe. While he struggles to live. Recording while he fears his death. Unable to move or defend himself. Seeing no one else will save him. Or even attempt to help. As his horror resonates.


“Let your breath find its way to those tight places.” She says to the background of the harmonium.


As his body is stiff and rigid with every piece of his soul fighting to hang on. Feeling his energy seep out and onto the public street in the light of day. In front of people he knew. Feeling the pressure and force of that boney knee. His face pinned against the hot asphalt. Hands cuffed behind his back. Sweat dripping from his furrowed brow. As he frantically searches the crowd for help with his eyes. For someone to recognize the fear in his voice. As he warns the world, “They are going to kill me!”


Her voice and the harmonium continue, “Relax the gaze. Letting go of the furrowed brow. Feel the spaciousness.”


I picture him losing his strength. His voice becoming softer as he runs out of air. As his body is too tired to continue against his aggressors. Being murdered. Without reason. Slowly. Painfully. Every second stripping away a level of his humanity. His dignity. Knowing he deserved his breath, his life, his voice. Confused how others didn’t see he mattered.


The harmonium continues, “Holding onto what has not been spoken.”


I see George gasp for air. Calling out for his mother, “Mama. I love you.”


In this moment of desperate need, knowing only she could see him. This country, this world turning it’s back on his last breaths. His last pleads for life. As the knee continues digging into his fragile neck. Remembering the words spoken at his funeral, ‘Maybe him not calling out for his mother, but maybe seeing her.”

Imagining him seeing his mother’s soul reaching out to him as his death approached. Welcoming him back with her. Inviting him to rise as a knee and other hands continue pressing his lifeless body down. His hands still cuffed behind his back. Until after 7 excruciating minutes and 46 long seconds, he takes his last breath.


“Let your body breathe.” She says in my headphones as the one note plays, “Deeply, allowing and welcoming all feelings of responsitivity.”


As I imagine George being embraced into his mothers arms. Whispering to him the pain is over. His freedom regained. His soul no longer trapped in the body that is still pinned to the ground. No longer needing to beg people who wouldn’t acknowledge him. As the evil presence still forces his neck down. Still in the process of murder and hate for another 1 minute and 53 seconds after his soul had parted. No longer feeling weight of that knee.

While I pray that he watched his murderers, their cowardice, get exposed in the process. His life saving others from the same fate and exposing the truth of systematic racism. His daughter knowing her daddy changed the world. Hoping he is still watching it all unfold. His unjust, unfair murder. That would be the true justice. That he would be able to see his death begin a movement. A movement that will change the history and reality of our nation. As we continue to watch. To speak. To stand. As another unarmed black man gets gunned down. As the denial continues. As our president refuses to admit. Who goes to the home town of Jacob Blake without visiting his family. Saying he met their family pastor instead. As the father of Jacob Blake states their family doesn’t have a pastor. As the resistance grows stronger. As the young build and lead. As they peacefully march. As they refuse to condone or welcome the violence happening around them. Who will continue protesting, teaching us, until real change comes.


As the harmonium plays, as her words are spoken, as I inhale this fortunate breath, a breath every human deserves, I believe good will triumph. Truth will prevail. It has to. Or evil would have already taken over. With faith, belief, my imagination, I want everyone to admit his life mattered. I want us to come together and admit all black lives do. I want to picture us united. I want to see us better. Finally. One nation. For liberty and justice for all. Until then, I will say their names. I will write. I will stand. I will not waste my breath.

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2 Comments


Sally Joan Jones
Sally Joan Jones
Sep 05, 2020

As your readers are drawn into your morning meditation through sight and sound, you also bring us into your heart and depth of feelings about the contrasts of the protective yet gently introductory world of your mothering. A beautifully moving piece, JoAnna!


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Lisa Dymond
Lisa Dymond
Sep 05, 2020

Jojo, I loved how you brought me into your space and into your meditation, taking me with you into your deep exploration of the shock and horror for Breonna, Ahmaud, Jacob & George. Entirely moving & unforgettable.

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