I believe in breathing.
I believe in breathing on all levels. Clearly, it is biologically necessary. But it is one of the few biological processes we can actively control (blinking is another). Contemplate that for a moment: it’s something that happens all on its own when we don’t think about it, but when we do, we are in full and absolute control. It’s spontaneously controlled – or maybe controlledly spontaneous.
So what do I mean when I say “breathing on all levels?” There is of course, the unconscious level, that is, breathing without thinking about it. That in itself isn’t much to believe in, any more so than, say, cellular respiration. All it is is a biological process. But without that foundation to build up from, no one wouldn’t be alive to breathe consciously.
What I can do when I actually think about breathing moves me to a new level of awareness. Numerous activities around which hundreds and thousands of individuals base their lives only exist because human beings can decide when to inhale and exhale. Swimming. Singing. Heck, I couldn’t have even blown bubbles in my backyard when I was a kid if I couldn’t focus my breath. I mean, bubbles! Simple childhood activities would have been impossible. I couldn’t play my flute, I couldn’t dive into a pool on a hot summer day, or go snorkeling on a vacation.
I owe my life to my lungs on so much more than a biological basis. Because of them, I can breathe deeply and fall asleep at night. I can hold my breath in awe of a spectacular sight.
Admittedly, I did have somewhat of an asthmatic history as a child. Breathing wasn’t always so easy. I couldn’t run without being winded, and I was sick often. But I think it gave me a chance to better appreciate each breath I take now that I’m older. I grew out of asthma. I grew into breathing.
Believe me when I say that I don’t mean any of the above in a fluffy, light way. I still go through much of my life in such a hurry that I forget to stop and smell the roses (which, by the way, requires controlled breathing). I often forget to breathe the right way. It’s just that every so often, I manage to sit down and just simply inhale calmly, and those few minutes every now and then are some of the happiest in my life.
So at the very least, the next time I find myself thinking about inhaling and make that shift from the unconscious to the conscious, I can realize that the few minutes that follow will probably be some of the most important. Even now, as I write, I often find myself suspending respiration in order to phrase a thought the way I want it. Breathing is tricky business. Learning to breathe right is so much harder, but so much more rewarding. Life can be lived if you can breathe. It can only be enjoyed if you make an effort to breathe consciously.
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