Dreams are necessary. Where would we be if we did not dream? Where would we be if we did not dream of things to improve our lives, individually and collectively? Without dreams we may not have invented the wheel, the printing press, or iPhones. Without dreams we would not have abolished slavery, women would still not be eligible to vote, and the Berlin Wall would not have fallen.
Dreamers – there have been many. We know of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech. George Bernard Shaw, later quoted by JF Kennedy, famously asked “I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” And, of course, John Lennon acknowledged the many dreamers, singing:
“You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one.”Yes, dreams (or aspirations) are useful.
We can think of an aspiration in another sense too. One that is much more immediate. To aspire also means to breathe. Not surprisingly really, for it comes from the same Latin root, aspirare – meaning to breathe at, or blow upon.
When we consider our breath we are brought to the here and now. Our breath is immediate. We breathe now. We aspire. We breathe in, we breathe out. Our breath also connects us to the cycle of life of which we are a part. The oxygen in the air we breathe now was once the oxygen released by a tree on the other side of the planet. At some stage that oxygen has breathed in by another human being somewhere in the world, and sometime in the past. Our breath connects us to everyone and everything and roots us in the present moment.
Teachers of mindfulness and meditation often get us to use our breath as a tool. It is the one tool we have access to all the time. By concentrating on, or focusing upon, our breath we bring ourselves into a space of mindfulness on what is happening here and now. Our mind begins to let go of its clutter and chatter. We begin to find a peacefulness and a clarity that is often not there in our busy, hectic, future-oriented days.
Often our community development or social justice work can be future oriented and focused upon our dreams – our aspirations.
Maybe we would benefit sometimes from slowing down and concentrating upon our breath – our aspiration.
By doing so, we may find that what we really want is right here and now. We may find that by paying attention to the present we become mindful of the opportunities that exist right in front of our (breathing) nostrils.