Breathe.

At 5:07 PM on Thursday, June 16, 2011, I learned how important it is to breathe.

We take drawing a breath for granted, but when my third daughter made her debut that afternoon, she couldn’t do it.

Breathe, that is.

She made a sad little mewling noise and then just kind of lay there in the nurse’s arms.  Having been present at the births of our other two daughters, I knew that wasn’t right.

Before I could think much (at all), the doc, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc. had it all under control and she was fine.  Today she yells nice and loud.

As an object-lesson in the importance of quality respiration, I don’t recommend this experience.

But you have those same stories in your own life.

Maybe you’ve seen one of your own children choking, their skin turning an odd shade as they fight for a breath.  Perhaps you have a brother or sister with asthma.  Maybe you’ve had a with of pneumonia.

The point is that if you’ve never had an opportunity to learn how important it is to be able to pull in a deep draught of sweet, clean air … consider yourself blessed.

If you’re not convinced about how important a good solid breath is, stop for a bit.  Seriously. Just stop breathing.  See how long it lasts before your body makes you start again – and notice how good it feels when you take that next breath.

“And the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.”

That’s what Genesis has to say about breathing.  It’s not just a handy procedure for processing oxygen, it’s a divine gift.  The divine gift.  The spark of the soul.

Breathing is what we – humans – do.  From a strictly structural perspective, it’s our purpose.  We breathe in oxygen, process it in an essentially mystical biomechanical process and breathe out carbon dioxide for flora to process back into oxygen.

I don’t remember my first breath, and my last will probably come as a complete surprise.  In between, millions.  Most of them passing by unnoticed.

One of the first steps in living an intentional life is becoming aware of not only the world around us, but of the world within us. Recognizing that those things we just do, that we take for granted, are complicated, essential, beautiful components of life.  And that those components – like, say, breathing – are worthy of our active attention.

Take a moment to listen to yourself breathe.  Turn off the TV.  Switch your phone to “airplane” mode.  Mute your Spotify stream.  Forget the car noise outside your window.  Tune out the HVAC.  Do whatever it takes to make a quiet space for yourself, just for a few fleeting breaths.

Sit up straight.  Then breathe.

Deeply.

Slowly.

Regularly.

And listen.  Listen to yourself breathe.  Hear yourself breathe.

Take your normal breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth.  Then out through you mouth, in through your nose.  Alternate every few breaths.

Listen carefully. Hear that divine spark flow in and out of your lungs.

Once you get past feeling self-conscious about it (I didn’t tell you to do this alone … but I was just sort of assuming you would), relax.  Keep listening, but think about what you’re doing.  Be aware, intentional even, about bringing in that next breath. Fill your lungs.

Sit with it for a few seconds.

Then let it out.  Slowly.  Hear it leaving your body.  Feel it flow through your nose.

And do it again. Several times.

Feeling good yet?

If not, try it again another time.  Keep trying it until it does feel good, because it should.  It should feel good to be aware of the most basic function of the human body.  It should feel good to use the air around you, to give your body oxygen.

If you’re comfortable with the exercise to that point, keep going.  Think about your breathing.  Fill your lungs, empty your lungs.  Let everything else take a backseat to breathing, just for a little while.

Sure, you can’t do this all day long, no matter how much you enjoy it, but you can make some time to do this exercise for a few minutes every day.

Taking it a step further, give some thought to the most important breaths of your day.  When your eyes pop open in the morning, take a few intentional breaths before you do anything else.  Is there anything that can’t wait for you to take three or four good deep breaths before your feet hit the floor?

Take another minute or two between phone calls.  Breathe.  Breathe between bites of lunch.  Breathe while you wash dishes.  While you fold clothes.

Stare at your computer screen for a minute in-between answering emails and listen to yourself breathe.  Nobody will know you’re not working, and when you start working again you’ll be better for it.

Yes, I know you’re breathing through all those activities anyway.  The question is, do you know you’re breathing?  Is your breathing just happening or are you in charge of at least a few of your breaths?

Remember, your breath – your every breath – belongs to you.  It’s a divine gift. Recognize it for what it is, at least a few times a day.  It doesn’t cost you a dime.

Live your life with intention.  Start with your next breath.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] this all about? « Del Monte Foods, Why? Breathe. […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jody on January 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Excellent suggestions! Thank you so much for the reminder to breathe and to notice the “little things.”

    Reply

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