I overheard a conversation yesterday, because I am nosy and the two women were enchanting.
They were sitting on a velvet green couch in the corner of a hotel where I was also staying. Sitting close, almost knee-to-knee, one with silver gray hair and red lipstick, who, even from 15 feet away, smelled like Coco Chanel perfume. The other woman sat with bright eyes, her nose pink from holding back tears and two babes playing at her feet.
As I pretended to check emails on my phone so I could linger near the couch without distracting them, I overheard these words spoken through the bright red lips of wisdom, “You are going to be a thousand different women in your lifetime; there is no need to worry about what you aren’t right now. Soon enough you will be more than you ever imagined. Just focus on breathing deeply and being inspired.”
I am always amazed at how wisdom is all around us, swirling between red lips and over babes playing on the floor, and into our hearts at exactly the right moment, even if we were eavesdropping to hear it.
A few weeks ago, a friend reminded me of a quote I had heard years before, something about how to be inspired is to breathe in. The idea came back to me as I watched these kindreds on the green couch remind one another to be inspired, and I thought about how if I had to add to the quote, I would make it not only about inspiration but about being inspired by the people around us. The ones who smell like Coco Chanel, and the ones who smell like play dough. Because in order to appreciate ourselves, sometimes we need to learn to appreciate others by breathing them in. And maybe that is the inspiration we have been gasping for all along.
Searching for inspiration like you are searching for your next breath is about noticing, about being awake, and about practicing gratitude.
In Genesis, there is a poem about God beginning the world, and it paints a picture of a God who breathes all of existence into being. I like to believe this God can also breathe new life into situations, events and people that appear to be, at some level, dead. And so all of us, humble bags of bone and skin, have been inspired by the divine, infinite, eternal, creative force of the universe who has breathed into us and everyone around us. This means we are surrounded by inspiration if we choose to experience it.
In almost every language you will find a dual meaning for the word breath, from Hebrew (ruach) to Latin (spire) — the word for breath is typically the same as the word for spirit.
When we talk about the spirit of something, what we’re naming is its ethos, the way it makes us feel, the ideas sparked in our minds when we interact with it. Take a song, for example. Certain pieces of music move us in unique and powerful ways, and the word we often use is inspiring. What do we mean by this? We mean that it breathed into us something good, hopeful, true, comforting, healing or genuine.
I believe the same spirit can be appreciated in the people all around us.