The collapse of a highway bridge in California this week is a compelling image. Our failure to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure mirrors our reluctance to invest in strengthening the connections that link us inextricably to each other and all life on the planet.

Our willingness to permit the chasms of commerce, class, race, religion and politics to divide is dooming us all. Can we build bridges to withstand the forces of human nature as well as Mother Nature?

We hear the naysayers’ answer daily. Those of us who would answer YES can begin by first tending the geography of our inner landscape.

Research on the brain is confirming what the experience of millennia has taught us about ourselves. Our ability first to survive and then to thrive results from the dance between our emotions and our cognition, our “heart” and “head.” Our ability to balance the two is key. Too much feeling without a rational reality check leads us astray and vice versa.

The good news is that our literal life-giving breath provides a transformative tool. Athletes, artists, counselors and those who meditate know this well. Training expands aerobic capacity and improves our health. Deep breathing interrupts cycles of fear, reducing stress. Breathing with focus and gentle intention creates a channel of mindfulness between head and heart, a conduit that brings the wisdom of each to the other.

Gaining perspective, balance and control of our own being is the first step in cultivating life-generating relationships with others. In words from Thich Nhat Hanh, Our breath is our bridge from our body to our mind.

An informed heart is our most powerful ally in spreading compassion. May your mindful breathing today launch ripples of peace within and outward to all whom you meet.