From the very beginning of life, till its end, one activity we do unceasingly, is breathing. In fact, life starts with taking our first breath, and ends with letting out our last. Breathing, as we know, brings in the vital oxygen needed to sustain the life of our cells and body, and throws out a lot of waste products created during our body metabolism. To breathe, is to be alive. Anything that impairs proper breathing will affect the quality of our lives.
Breathing and breathing exercises have always one of the chief foundations of most spiritual practices. A large portion of yoga deals with breathing. But breathing, apart from being an activity which nourishes our body and achieves mental peace and harmony, is also a tool for learning. If we choose to, we can learn a lot from this continuous and often unconscious activity
With every breath that we take in, we own and possess a portion of air taken from the atmosphere. This air that we take in with each breath goes through our nostrils into our lungs. And at that moment, we are the owners of that amount of air. It solely belongs to us, is within us, and is shared with no one else. But, within a few seconds, we have to release it. We cannot hold it back indefinitely. The very thing which brings in vital oxygen and nutrients and which is essestial for our survival becomes the opposite, if held on for too long. If we hold our breath for too long, it starts to become uncomfortable, we feel severe pressure in our body, we get confused and restless, and eventually, if we persist in holding on to our inhaled breath, we will become dizzy and fall unconscious. This is a survival mechanism, for when we fall unconscious, our voluntary control over our breath is gone, the autonomuc nervous system takes over, and breathing resumes, saving our lives.
So, the very quantity of air which we breathed in, which was ours, has to be released back into the atmosphere. This is a great lesson is sharing the resources of the world, without competing for them or hoarding them
Within a short time, the air that we have released gets completely mixed with the air of the environment, and is indistinguishable as the air which we owned some time ago. It then becomes the property of someone else, who takes it in with a breath. And the cycle continues. In the same fashion, whatever we possess here on earth, is very temporary. It might not be as short lived as a breath, but eventually, whether it is our body, our good looks, our youth, our health, our job, our material assets and money, our relationships——–everythin- g is temporary and one day, we will have to let go of all of the above, whether we like it or not.
Breathing teaches us that life moves in cycles. What is initially nourishing and life giving (oxygen, primarily) very soon becomes suffocating and dangerous, if held on too long. The same is true of many of our attitudes, habits, thoughts, emotions and beliefs. What serves us initially, is likely to become toxic if held on too long, and needs to go. Change is the only constant, it hs been said. And breathing teaches us this, every minute.
Like the act of breathing, we need to learn to enjoy everything while it lasts, like we feel good when we take a deep breath. But we also need to realize that we cannot be attached to the things that make us good. We have to let them go, if it is time for them to go. Holding on to something which is going away, is painful, toxic and suffocating, and life damaging. But to do that easily, to let go of what is becoming toxic, we need to have faith and trust in the Universe. We never think that if we breathe out air, we will not get air for the next breath. Likewise, we need to develop the same degree of trust in the Universal processes and let go, knowing that what is meant for us, what is good and nourishing for us, will find its way to us. Once we learn that trust from the act of breathing, we can breathe easy, both literally and figuratively.
Whether it is outdated ideas, toxic thoughts, distressed emotions, old unhealed wounds, or relationships, we need to take a deep breath, experience and enjoy them in the NOW as much as poosible, and without clinging and possessing, we need to learn, to let it all go. Eventually, everything is meant to go, so why hold on to something that is causing damage? If something feels good and you are able to keep it, good. But if something feels uneasy, distressing and hurting, it is better to let it go, like the incoming breath, which has done its job.
Take a deep breath, feel the peace, and let it all go.