I believe in the power of breath. It is the first familiar movement we feel in the womb – this wave-like rocking provides a rhythm we will unknowingly spend the rest of our lives trying to imitate. From the first dramatic moment we make contact with this new medium called air and we transition into mortal existence, we are sustained by this subconscious instinct. It becomes the centerering ritual – a soothing stability amidst a series of irregularities. It continues undaunted through the journey of our life. We learn to feel it, hold it and count on it through the thick and thin of our existence. Until we make our final gasp and swallow our last bubble of oxygen, we embrace this force – our oldest friend – that which gives us life.
I have learned to breath through a yoga stretch just until the point where I feel a pull. Then I hold and breath through the tightness – opening up my muscles and my mind as fresh oxygen enters and rejuvenates – and I go deeper.
In swimming I have spent years training my breath so I can swim the length of the pool underwater without taking a breath – relying solely on my stored resources.
When I bike, I challenge myself by breathing only through my nose. It’s especially difficult to keep your mouth closed and maintain a sufficient oxygen level while doing sprints. I enjoy the feeling of power that comes from knowing I’m in control.
It is this breath that I have focused on in my times of need. I remember seeing my breath, in the cold Chicago spring air, the day I discovered that my dad had left. I was the first to come home and saw that his clothes were gone out of my parent’s closet. I was fifteen and had just returned home from a choir trip to London. I had so much to tell my dad – we were going to spend the evening together and then pick my mom and my little sister up from the airport. Instead I sat on their bed listening to a tape explaining how he had chosen another life. My breath was so loud that I could barely hear his whisper, “I love you” at the end.
To some it is given the gift of calmness and peace. To others it is given the gift to find their breath in the midst of the chaos of life. I have learned to walk, go to school, work, tend to the sick; labor for, birth, and rear children while breathing. And last but not least, I have learned to breath through disabling sorrow, hardship and unfaithfulness. I have breathed through the poorness and richness of life. I have come to realize that very little in life is as constant as breath.
I believe in the power of breath. I am an expert breather – and I know how to breath deeply while there is still air to breath.
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