I was nearly ready to send something out for this week’s blog when I ran into an image that feels far more pertinent to comment on regarding where we are at in this pivotal time as a culture. I won’t go into all of the details around how I came upon this image. Instead, let me share it with you.

It is a simple, line-drawing, black and white cartoon sketch of a Klansman decked out in the usual cloak; body and face covered head to toe in white, with only small slits cut out for eyes. He is righteously (aggressively?) holding towards you, with a kind of “in your face” stance, a picket sign. It reads: “I ain’t wearing no mask. Re-open ‘merica.”

Okay, okay, so this is what we are up against is what I think as I take in the full implications of what this means for us. To be direct, there are far more choices here than those wearing a mask being on the side of right, as the someones who cares about others, and that those not wearing a mask are on the side of hatred and lack of concern for anything but themselves and the economy. There is a more nuanced picture around why a person would choose to not wear a mask that has nothing to do with Klan leanings or disregard for others’ health and well-being

As someone who does not align with the mandatory policy of mask-wearing, and as someone who is simultaneously for the health and welfare of the greatest good of the people, and as someone who also holds the conviction that it is each of our rights to decide in this regard, I find the polarization around wearing or not wearing a mask to be misinformed, dangerous and divisive; whether it is openly stated, implied, insinuated or unconsciously driven.

For more than two decades I have been a student and a teacher of the breath. It is my ultimate go-to in all that I do. It has changed my life, and it has changed the lives of so many people that I have taught in more ways than I or them could ever enumerate on in this space. Not only does the breath play the most essential role in keeping us alive, it is a powerful agent in connecting heart to head, unconscious to conscious, and matter to Spirit. Not to mention its role in equilibrating the emotions and quieting the mind. I could go on and on and on. And when I am teaching about the breath, I do.

Bringing the breath to the current circumstances, here is what I know to be true. On the inhale, covering your face restricts the flow of oxygen; a nutrient every cell in your body needs a continuous supply of, and without which we go into a state of hypoxia. At the extreme, this state is dangerous enough to kill us. In its “milder” iterations it leaves us with just enough oxygen to survive but not thrive; reducing the health and well-being of body and mind on a subtle yet sweeping systemic level. Ultimately serving as an invisible foundation for dis-ease.

On the exhale you are releasing the waste product CO2. This eliminatory function is absolutely essential to your survival. Respiratory waste is not meant to be reabsorbed into your body. But when your face is covered that is exactly what is happening. It is curious to note that with all of the emphasis being placed on the necessity of well-ventilated public spaces, we would choose to mandate such an intense lack of personal ventilation.

Lastly, when your body does not receive the oxygen it needs, you put your system into a stress response where you release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol suppresses the immune system. So what we are left with are bodies not getting the most essential nutrient in healthy amounts, who are then reabsorbing metabolic waste products and all the while trying to be healthy in the midst of a suppressed immune response.

And to those who would say that the mask is not for me, it is for others, I would say that my compromised health is far more of a risk factor to you than whether or not I wear a mask. I would say that my personal health is the very foundation of collective health. I would say that the body’s most basic and truest needs are simple and that we would be well served to learn what those are and to adhere to them.

I would also say that when we find ways to divide against each other in fear, we lose the insulating capacity and immune health that is available through our social connections and well-wishing of others. I would say that if instead of boiling things down to un-useful, unhelpful and untrue dichotomies, we instead spent our precious life force coming together to look at what it is that makes for a healthy population, we would find our answers. I would say that shrouding any issue in mandates not based in real human needs has always served throughout history as the root cause of the wrong things taking hold in us and between us. Let us not be those people with each other.

P.S. Do not take my word for it. As a matter of fact, never, ever take my word for anything. Instead, learn about your own body. Learn to decide your own mind. For if you truly want to keep others “safe,” this and only this is what it will take.Do not be misled by quick fixes and guarantees of safety issued from outside of you.

P.P.S. Hypoxia is when not enough oxygen makes its way to the cells and tissues of the body, with the early signs being anxiety, confusion and restlessness. Isn’t that exactly how many of us would describe ourselves? To go one further, is not the inability of the body to take in the oxygen it needs exactly what the virus brings us to? How ironic that our fix is the problem.