In the Making

Just Breathe

Posted by cjaxon on October 11, 2010

Every now and then there seem to be recurring themes in life. These are unrelated instances where people I’m talking with, or random people or events I notice seem to have similar topics. Lately it strikes me how often I hear about breath and breathing.

For example, we obviously talk about breath alot in singing. Birdwell insists that we take huge breaths, that without breath we can do nothing, that we can sing much bigger and fuller than we think because we do have breath to give. But she reminds us that (life lesson here) we typically don’t take in as much as  we could, so we have less to offer. We have so much more potential than we realize.

We also talk about it in my monologue class. About always speaking “on breath,” using a full voice. About taking deep breaths to keep us relaxed and grounded. About making discoveries with a breath in, as if to say “Oh my gosh!” with only a breath. 

Interestingly, we talk about it in dance. Our teachers remind us to breathe while we’re stretching – it’s important to get air to the muscles so they don’t wear out, so they’ll stretch better, and so on. But here’s one I didn’t expect: we had a guest teacher last week who kept relating breath to actual movements, to make them flow better, to flow smoother, to help with timing. To relax us while we perform.

The same idea came into play in my Period Movement class. (This class is all about Victorian Era formality and so forth.) We can mimic these formal poses like characters, or rather caricatures, but my teacher’s question was “Now how do we make these poses seem natural as we connect them, as we move them across the room?” Someone’s hand shot up and they declared: “Breathe.” And her reply was “Exactly.”

Finally, my roommate recently purchased the entire set of Nooma videos by Rob Bell. He’s a very contemporary preacher who approaches Christianity from new angles, asks tough questions and gives thought-provoking answers. One of the first videos we watched was all about breathing, and ancient people’s thoughts on breathing. The name for the LORD, Yaweh, came from four Hebrew letters which put together sounds like someone breathing. In a way, it seems that the ancient name for God was the sound of breath. We could say God’s name and be reminded to think of God all day long. Also, ancient people thought that the Spirit literally lived inside us, as though we could breathe it in since God’s all around us.

Many traditions of meditation begin by focusing on breath, on deep, consistent breath, concentrating on the feeling of your breath expanding and contracting. Some even see breath as Christians see the Spirit, as a way of accessing the Divine.

Putting it all together

The event that made me realize how much I’ve heard about breath lately was a song. The other day I heard a song Anna Nalick on the radio by that I used to love in high school. It’s called “Breathe.” The chorus is “And breathe… just breathe.”

See what I mean? The reminder to breathe, to make full use of breath, is popping up everywhere! There are probably plenty more different examples in everyone’s life. What does it all mean though? I don’t know yet. I’m trying to take into account all the types of breath and uses of breathing.

What happens when we breathe? From a literal, physical definition, a gush of air fills our lungs, which take the oxygen (which isn’t even the majority of “air.” Air is mostly nitrogen) and put it in the blood stream. What’s left is CO2, which we don’t really need, so we send it back out into the world.

From a metaphorical fluff-and-filler definition, we take into ourselves part of the world. Then we give back. We share with others. We’re actively participating in the life-beat of the world. It influences our movements, our artistry, our connection with the Divine. With something more than ourselves. Breath connects us to each other and to everything around us. If a butterfly’s wings can cause a tornado across the planet, how much can a deep breath do?

Like I said, I’m not yet sure what it all means. I know breathing is something we all take for granted. It’s just what we do. But I’m pretty sure there are several metaphors here we can learn from.


2 Responses to “Just Breathe”

  1. Mom said

    So was the dream earlier in the week really a dream about breathe, not drowning?

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