深い (Fukai) means “deep.” The left side of this character indicates water and the right side represents a baby coming out of a womb.
息 (Iki) means “breath.” The top of this character represents a nose, while the bottom symbolizes a human heart. The air reaches our heart through our lungs and nose.

As you know, the world has been in chaos because of the coronavirus. People are trying hard to protect themselves. Many of you may be isolated in your homes. Some of you have lost your jobs, others have closed their businesses, and some people might have lost family members because of the virus. My wife Alice and I are also staying home during the lockdown.

Fukai Iki. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

During World War II, many people of Japanese ancestry in Canada, America and Peru were sent to incarceration camps. Everyone was allowed to bring only two suitcases. They were sent to isolated parts of the country, far from any cities or towns.

They spent four to five years of their lives in cramped and extremely minimal living spaces with their family members and without many activities to occupy their time.

Compared to that, our situation is much easier. I know that many people are struggling to fill their time, even if they are working from home or teaching their kids at home. I would like to share something you can think about when at home.

I have been teaching about the importance of practicing deep breathing. We practice breathing during my martial arts and shodo (Japanese calligraphy) classes, and also at Sunday service at our Konko Spiritual Center in South San Francisco. As we breathe, we pull oxygen into our body through our mouths and noses.

Do you take time during the day to appreciate this miraculous process?
Without food or water, our bodies can survive for many days, but we cannot survive even a few minutes without air.

Life may have begun in the ocean at least a billion years ago. Many sea creatures filtered oxygen from the water through their gills. As the earth changed through storms and earthquakes, land emerged and living creatures evolved to breathe oxygen with their lungs instead of gills.

It was not an easy task, and only some species survived this transition through the harsh Ice Ages and hot desert-like temperatures for years on end.

The coronavirus is very deadly to people who have respiratory problems. It is crucial at this time to remember and appreciate all the hard work our bodies and lungs do for us everyday. We may struggle to stay inside, but by reducing our physical contact with other people, we are helping to save the lives of those with poor health. Let us continue to take action, by limiting the time we spend outside our homes to necessary trips to grocery stores and short walks. Let us spend time inside knowing we are helping our community and world become stronger in the long run. Let us practice deep breathing often, every day with wholehearted appreciation.

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy). He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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