(Reading time-3 minutes)
” …and He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
— Genesis 2:7
The gasses in the Universe form a living breath. The Sun is a burning ball of gas. Hydrogen and oxygen combine to form droplets of water which fall to Earth as rain. In a flash of lighting, nitrogen descends to Earth. As this breath of the heavens mixes with soil, the land becomes a living thing.
The gasses in the heavens descend to the Earth allowing life to thrive. As the winds blow over the landscape microbiota in the soil rise up on vapors into the atmosphere. Sometimes when the light is just so you can see the fullness of the air.
I was maybe six years old when it first donned on me that the air wasn’t empty. In the morning light, sunbeams shone through an old window. I could see the dust floating and swirling in imperceptible currents. It seemed at once like an the undulating ocean or the swirling of the cosmos.
If you could see microbiota the way I first saw dust, the entire world would seem to be one continuous mass of life spanning from the stratosphere, to subterranean caves and even your most hidden veins. They travel on currents of gas as fish swim in streams. They are not only sustained by these gasses, they change them.
Everything living has a complex interaction with the gasses which sustain their existence. They influence the atmosphere and also contribute to its changes. Our own atmosphere has been anything but static over the ages. In the past bacteria changed the entire atmosphere and caused a mass extinction. At one time, oxygen was deadly to most life on Earth. There was one small bacteria which used the sun’s energy and expelled oxygen as a waste product. As the Earth’s balance shifted these cyanobacteria began to proliferate. They produced so much oxygen, that they contributed to destroying most life on Earth. In the new atmosphere, everything needed to tolerate oxygen or it would die. Oxygen loving creatures thrived and continue to do so now.
Depending on the amount of phytoplankton in the oceans and forest cover on land, oxygen levels have been as high as 35%. Today we enjoy around 20% oxygen saturation. Like everything in nature, this too will change.In cities, the air is filtered by millions of human lungs and infused with the waste of fossil fuels. Depending on the air flow of a city, the oxygen levels can dip even lower.
This breath carries with it a complex relationship to life. In the forest, plants respire. Mushrooms create their own microclimate and spread spores by releasing water vapor to cool the air around them and create tiny wind currents. From the flapping of a butterfly’s wing to the collective exhalation of the Amazon rainforest, everything interacts with the air. Where gasses go, life follows.
The scent before a rain isn’t the scent of water, but rather the blooming mold within the water particles. The fresh smell of sun dried sheets is the relative absence of fungi in the desert created by putting the sheets in the sunshine. This is why the weather influences us so much. Cold and damp climates might not technically be making you ill, but when you consider how connected microbiota are to the weather, they might as well be. These shifts in weather allow microbes to proliferate and spread. Similarly, inside the body, a shift in heat, moisture and gasses can cause certain microbiota to spread into regions which are not beneficial. This makes gas exchange a very important aspect of your climate barrier. As you inhale, microbiota come in; as you exhale, microbiota from your gut can rise into your mouth and spread to the outer landscape. They can go anywhere the gasses allow them. The life within you will thrive or die based on the kinds of the gasses that are available. Different mixtures of gasses harbor their own particular forms of life. Some microbiota love nitrogen or hydrogen. Some prefer oxygen, while others can’t stand it. They require the right degree of gasses in order to thrive. As the ratio of gases shift, some microbiota die and others begin to flourish. The balance of life is determined by the balance of gases.
Qi and Gut Balance by Andrew Miles & Xuelan Qiu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at enlightenweight.com.