Breath is the beginning, the middle and the end. When we are born, it is the first thing we do; everyone anticipating it and waiting anxiously for that first breath. We breathe and then cry, as if longing for the simple existence we have just left, yet, here we are, in a big, strange world surrounded by those who love us, and we begin life and endless lessons. When we are too excited, we often hear, “calm down, and take a breath” and when we get frightened we hear the same advice, “breath, it’s okay.” Returning to the breath, to the beginning, takes us back to the place where we could just be present.
We continue on our path through childhood, young adulthood, and then, as adults, we have children of our own. Through the delivery of our child we are encouraged to breath, perhaps more rapidly, but at the same time, in an age-old pattern, providing focus, allowing our muscles to relax and our body to do it’s job, to deliver this person into our waiting arms. Breathing and then holding our breath, listening for the first breath of our newborn. When it arrives, we can let out a slow breath, sigh, relief.
We age and sometimes breathing is strained or affected by external forces, pollutants, and pollens. There are times when we feel like we are holding our breath for so long that we almost forget to exhale. There are times when exhaling might jinx our hopes, our wishes, so we prefer the limbo state, the breathless moment before disappointment, before that realization sets in and hope is diminished, breath held, everything is still possible. Or sometimes, the extreme release of breath that has been held too long allows us to collapse, our muscles exhausted from contraction, knots seeming permanent.
In the end, breath is almost too difficult, but still we cling to it and we struggle to maintain our breath until all has been settled and all words said. We are given extra oxygen, prolonging the time left and giving us moments of clarity so we can get the job done, provide answers, or hope. The breath is no longer deep, or long, for now it comes in the short gasps that accompany the transition. When the muscles tire, and the mind is ready, the breath relaxes and stops for it has done its job and taken us to another place.