“…A fish would be the last creature on earth to discover water, so totally…immersed in it is he.”
We could say the same about humans and the air we breathe. Most of us take air utterly for granted, seldom thinking about its availability. I’ve recently had cause to pause on the air issue and consider it consciously.
I realized long ago when I was studying yoga with my dear friend Mary Beth Robertson that I forget to breathe. I am remembering this lesson all over again in my work at Core Cat Pilates, where I am regaining some long-lost strength. Who would have thought? How could a person forget to breathe?
Of course, I am sitting here breathing unconsciously. There are times, however, when using breath more deeply and consciously seems to help: when stretching a big ol’ reluctant muscle, the moment before opening your mouth in anger, when facing a daunting pile of work that’s all due. Taking a moment to breathe helps reduce our tendency to cling to pain or speak thoughtlessly or to panic, which all seems a bit amazing. It’s so simple, so basic.
A couple nights ago while out for dinner, we witnessed a young man choking. It was a uniquely horrifying few moments. [His friend successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver and all was well when we left.] But, I have to say, this experience sent me on a tailspin and I am still pondering it.
Not everyone takes breathing for granted. People with asthma certainly don’t. A person with food stuck in his windpipe does not take breathing for granted. In those moments when that young man could not breathe, when it seemed like his light was flickering, his humanity became precious to strangers.
It is said that in these situations, your life passes before you. If that is true, I imagine that he had a simultaneously visceral and god-like experience of his cellular divisions, toddler steps, skinned knees, first love, and second love. Perhaps he had a vision of his mother, enjoying dinner, comfortable in the knowledge that she had raised a fine, healthy son.
Imagine how sacred his next breaths were. Like the most delicate gossamer threads, the finest wine, the purest gold: those breaths were magical.