Breathing is necessary in order to sustain our corporeal existence. Inhaling and exhaling, over and over. The average human takes 12 breaths per minute which comes out to 17,280 each day. This doesn’t factor in times of exercise. It is something that most people do without even thinking about it, unless they are subject to respiratory conditions. At age four, I was diagnosed with asthma. It was not generally exercised induced, but rather, would sneak up on me when I experienced emotional stress, or with no obvious precipitant. That was when my parents would help me to calm down and rest until my galloping lungs could catch up; it was called ‘stridorous breathing'; with a raspy, wheezy sound. At night, when the breathing got even more precipitous, my mother would take me into the bathroom and turn on the shower as we would take in steam until my lungs would be more receptive to air. She would sing and talk to me to ease things. That went on for several years and improved when our family doc recommended swimming as a way of expanding my lung capacity. I joined a swim team and that became part of my joy as I competed from ages 11-18 and then coached for the following three summers.
Since I have found that nothing happens in isolation, I notice a parallel between my ability to give and receive love and support and my ability to take in and release air. We are relational beings who, unless we live in a cave all by ourselves, need to interact with and rely on others for our survival and growth. For some, it is easier to give and for others, to receive. In order for a complete cycle to take place, we do need to engage in both activities. I had become accustomed to being a giver; believing on some level, in the proverbial “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” What I had come to recognize is that it is easier and somehow safer to give, since when you are in that role, you are in charge. You get to decide how much, what, to whom you give. When you are the receiver, it places you in a vulnerable position, since you are at the mercy of another’s whim. It also occurs to me, that there is a tinge of vulnerability on the giver’s part, since it is possible that the prospective recipient may not want what we are offering. I am learning to be both a generous giver and gracious receiver.
Back to the breathing analogy. My pattern was to have difficulty exhaling, rather than inhaling. I rarely breathed out completely; fearing that I wouldn’t be able to take in another one. There wasn’t a conscious fear of death. More beneath the surface going on. I would hold on, rather than let go. That has been another pattern. Not quite able to surrender to the ebb and flow and natural progression of life. A need to control outcome, which has proven outrageously difficult. We never know what we will face and when we attempt to grab hold and hold on, it is like water that drips through our clenched fingers. It is when we hold experiences in an open, cupped hand and the breath that sustains us in naturally expanding and contracting lungs, then we live full out. I love the word inspire which comes from Middle English enspire, from Old French inspirer, from Latin inspirare ‘breathe or blow into,’ from in- ‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe.’ The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone.’
I call myself an ‘inspirista’ and love the idea of being breathed by the Divine.