Breathing. Now there’s a subject. What is there to say about breathing? It’s as natural as taking a breath? or…
Once during my long hospital experience I became obsessed with breathing and asked everyone who walked into my room “How do you breathe?” Inevitably, the response was something like “in and out”, just “in and out”. No one stopped to ask the (obvious) question of why I was asking such a question. But that’s another story.
I’ve been on the edge of meditation practice for more than twenty years In the eighties. friends did Transcendental Meditation workshops. Later, friends went on Vipassana retreats and Mindfulness practice. Buddhism, with its focus on practice became more common.
My partner did two TM programs with his workplace. One misty, rainy night, looking over a country town, he turned to me and said, “Close your eyes, with each breath repeat this…” and guided me through a TM session. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks and knowing there was something precious about this gift. Since then, I have practised intermittently- the times I’ve needed the practice most being the times I ‘ve been most intermittent.
Sitting on my back deck this morning, looking over gentle green hills and a sky filled with gorgeous clouds I found myself reflecting on myself and breathing. (I know that sounds ridiculous, but stay with me.)
How many times are we aware of breathing? It’s so fundamental because without it there is no life, we are our breath. Or it just happens, as all those people said to me back in that hospital room. But then and other times I have been intensely aware of it. Complete focus on breathing stopped me from giving up during that long experience of illness.. In extreme pain and discomfort, tubes everywhere and surrounded by machines, I said over and over to myself: ” I only have to survive this breath… and this breath… and this breath”; and I kept on going.
And then twice, that breath stopped. Have you any idea how terrifying it is not to be able to breath? To feel yourself falling into unconsciousness? The second time I clutched at the sleeve of the medical registrar saying “don’t leave me!” I remember nothing else, until, much later, the awareness of a tube in my mouth and a machine clunking in and out, my parents holding my hands.
But my experiences are so small. One of my brothers was an asthmatic back in the days when doctors believed the condition may have been psychosomatic. My parents were told not to pay it any attention. I would lie in bed listening to him struggle for each breath, not knowing if there would be one. I cannot imagine what it was like for that little boy.
As for now? I know to be grateful for each breath I take and I shall continue to spend time each day in the formal practice of mindfulness. Who knows what that will bring?
Take a moment to be aware of your breathing and be grateful for simply being alive.