To Breathe or Not to Breathe? That is the question.

February 10, 2010 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

Yesterday a friend of mine told me this story. She had met a producer who had offerred her a job on a film he was preparing. They arranged to meet a second time, but she was fifteen minutes late, and when she arrived he was gone. Upset about this, she tried to phone and email him but got no response. Thinking that she offended him by being late, she rang one of his associates who told her that he had killed himself the day after their first meeting. He was 53.

“To be or not to be?”, that must have been the question that this producer asked himself, and his answer was “No, I’ve had enough.” To those of us who have never contemplated suicide, it seems such a radical thing to do, to stop life just like that. I don’t blame him, it was his life to keep or lose, but he left a 15 year old son, and who knows the psychic repercussions that this will have on him. 

In meditation, it’s relatively easy to come to this stage, the point where you are only ‘being’ and so can contemplate ‘non-being’ . When in meditation you have come to a highly relaxed state, with a quiet mind and a body that has almost disappeared from sensation, you have left behind ‘doing’, ‘making’ and ‘having’, and most of what remains is the breath – inhale and exhale, with the pauses in between.  At this stage the breath is so clearly life, your life, that you are filled only with ‘being’, and the body and mind become the possession of your involuntary systems- the circulation and movements of blood, lymph, spinal fluid, water, food and so on, all controlled automatically by your brain.  

When you become aware of the breath being your life, of only ‘being’ , life becomes very simple, a matter of one inbreath and one outbreath. It is so simple that you can understand how easy it would be to stop breathing and to cease to be. Every once in a while, especially when times are painful, I have found myself being forced to ask myself , in meditation, why I go on, what purpose my life is serving, and whether it would make sense to stop. When this question arises, I take a review of my life, the present as well as the future. Am I happy? Are there things I still want to do?  What do I hope to achieve in the future? What responsibilities do I have, that I would be ducking out of? Do I have the potential of greater happiness in the future? So far I have always answered in the positive, that to be means more to me than not to be, but I suppose a time might come when the balance might swing the other way.

Today in meditation I realised that the past only exists in our body, where memories are stored, and that these are delusions, not accurate remembrances of what we experienced. The future too is a complete illusion, since we don’t know if we will be around to experience it. All we are left with is now, the present instant, the inbreath and outbreath that express our life’s feelings, thoughts and emotions.  And this is more than enough if we can find a way to be really present to that breath, to the moment in which we live. To be is really to breathe.

Entry filed under: breathing, Uncategorized.

A Spiritual Almanack: February – Seeds A Spiritual Almanac – March

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Reflections on an age of anxiety.


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