Contemplations on the Breath

This year has been incredibly busy and productive for me and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. I was able to explore different passions and hone some skills. I met amazing people with open hearts and inspiring souls. I inched out of my comfort zone to support charities and advocacies that are close to my heart. I learned to set healthy boundaries for myself and others and to ask for help when I need it. Looking back, 2019 had been a year of even more growth and maturity. Things moved. I flowed without overthinking and was surprised to find where I landed. Here and now.

It is a day after Christmas and the holiday hoopla is starting to die down. I can easily carve out more time to just sit and be still. It is also a New Moon and a great time to set intentions for the year to come. I’ve done all of that last night and today, all I am aching to do is sit and contemplate the breath for it makes me come alive.

How wonderful it is to learn so much from the single, most vital and also most unassuming thing in life – the breath. In and out. It teaches us so much and I would like to share some contemplations I’ve had in the past year about this wonderful breath:

1. It teaches us about the natural rhythms of life – in and out – letting in and letting go.

From the moment we came out of our mother’s womb and into this world, we grasped for air and once we got accustomed to it, we settled into its rhythm. We inhale, we exhale. One comes after the other. Without one, the other cannot exist. They seem to be opposites and yet the truth is they are the same, always coming together to create the bigger whole.

Even when we are not aware of it, our breath powers us – through stress, illness, and rest. The quality of our breaths also shows us the contraction or ease we may be in as we move through the changes of life. This gently reminds us to let go, else we will accumulate tension in our bodies that can contribute to imbalance. If we do not awaken to our own reactions to life, we will be forced to come back into balance through illness or destruction of the unnecessary, toxic, and stagnant.

It is possible to be at ease in the midst of the changes of life for our breath steadies us and keeps us anchored in the present moment. Most of the time, we forget but just one second of remembering can bring us out of our own heads and drama and bring us back to life.

2. It soothes, heals, and cleanses – in all layers of our being.

Sit in stillness, close your eyes, and feel your breath. Just the simple act of pausing to breathe instantly calms the mind and body and refreshes our perspective on whatever was bothering us in the first place. The flow of the breath in and out of the body brings in the nutrients we need from the environment. The breath transforms into something our bodies can process and it washes away anything we no longer need – poison, pollutants, stagnant or constricting energy, pain, and discomfort.

The breath magically penetrates the deeper layers of our being – from physical, to energetic, to emotional, to mental, to spiritual. Bringing in the energy and nutrients we need and helping us let go of what no longer serves us. It soothes, heals, and cleanses us from within by soaking us with the pureness of the present moment and rinsing us of the heavy energy we hold inside. Each breath has the capacity to gently peel away layers of our worries, fears, anxieties, shame, anger, and indifference by letting us feel the freshness of life. It is amazing how just a few minutes of intentional breathing can reintroduce harmony in our life, reminding us that it is accessible at anytime and place.

Our breath is our lifesaver, literally and symbolically.

3. It is impermanent, constantly teaching us non-attachment, equanimity, and the dangers of quick judgment.

The moment we inhale, we must also exhale. We cannot be attached to only our in-breaths and rescind all of our out-breaths. Likewise, we cannot hold on to only one breath and forget about the rest. Doing so would bring us great suffering and ultimately death. Literally and figuratively.

Each breath teaches us the fundamental lesson of impermanence – things arise and they pass away. Within each cycle, we come alive but we must also let go. The inhales and exhales are equally important. One cannot be without the other. This teaches us equanimity and non-judgment for each single breath is as important as the previous or the next. Each one is unique. It can never be replicated nor preserved. It just flows. Gently and naturally.

Organically, our body knows this yet there is something within us that tries so hard to fight against what’s natural. There is our ego, that small sense of self, that struggles to make itself big by imposing its rules, its beliefs, its desires on life. This is where we become too attached to people, relationships, work, material things, even our bodies. The natural law will always prevail over our self-importance which is ultimately rooted in our fear of being “nothing,” our death, our realization that we are not valuable because we do not live forever or we are not powerful over life.

This is a terrifying thought but it is only scary because we think of ourselves as one person. The breath tries to shake us out of that small sense of self by showing us that the breath comes from and is available anywhere, everywhere, and for everyone throughout all time. We are as important as each being in this world for the breath of life flows through us.

Just like the inhales and the exhales, though we are “different,” we are all equally invaluable – a part of a bigger whole.

4. It shows us that we are part of a bigger whole.

Drawing from the previous point, the breath shows us that we are part of a bigger whole. The breath is recreated over and over again throughout all the years of the world’s existence and throughout all the beings that have breathed it. Each breath we take in has been through the bodies of our neighbors in the room, the ones who were there before us, the ones who will be there when we’re gone. Our breath comes from the plants, microorganisms, animals, and other beings in this planet. This includes our loved ones, our enemies, strangers, those who are sick, healthy, depressed, joyful, suffering, rejoicing. Our breath touches those who have made mistakes, those who are holy, those who are waging war against others. It has been breathed by our ancestors and the generations that will come after us. And all these beings continue to spread it wherever they go, constantly exchanging this life force that animates us all.

Within each breath is the whole world! And within each exhale, we share ourselves to the planet throughout all time. How amazing and vast our reach is.

Our power lies not on what we control but on what we share with our breaths. 

5. It touches us all throughout our lives.

The breath touches us throughout our whole lives and gives us the opportunity to share again, to heal again, to cleanse again. We are constantly being given a chance to be free and to choose love, kindness, and compassion each time.

We can know ourselves and contemplate the vastness of life just by meditating on the breath. Ultimately, we have the whole world in us already.

Isn’t that amazing?

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