Friday, June 19, 2009

The Privilege to Breathe

I wonder sometimes the meaning of why we exist. Some thoughts like that never seem to be as trivial as a question like, “What’s the name of that sign that tells you to stop?” The meaning of why we exist, is a question that carries a barrage of uncertainties. We think we know the answer for a long time, but we don’t – bluntly put.

Zen as a regular practice has taught me that our very essence of existing should not be so complicated. It is quite simple. In fact, our existence was not thought out at all, why waste our time over-thinking it?

I’m not suggesting that a simple minded notion of philosophical questions should be discarded and looked upon as vanity to the intellectual egotism of the west. Philosophers may be sitting in arm chairs and thinking up their own opinions, but in the end of it all, how is anyone any different from them?

No. I’m talking about the regular understanding of our existence.

Think about it in terms of our animistic qualities. Biologists have a list of criteria that if met would constitute an object as a living thing. Biologists have to have some list of the sorts. I think it’s interesting that one of the items on this list (at least on the list that I have here in my biology textbook) simply says, “Must be able to breathe” as one of the main items of requirements.

Meditation requires a lot of breathing but it is not so that we can relax our mind, relaxing the mind is part of the exercise, but breathing, as an activity, is a privilege.

You and I are not a rock. We process oxygen. You and I are living beings. That’s not farfetched.

When my lungs expand and contract, I live. When they don’t, I no longer live.

Another thing I find interesting about breathing is that your body unconsciously keeps it operating. You don’t need to THINK about breathing to breathe - you just do. But, it goes the other way around. You can also THINK about HOW you breathe and control it CONSCIOUSLY. Did you know that breathing is the only thing that you can both consciously and unconsciously control?

This blog is about the idea of breathing. I’ve recently been talking to a friend who is going through some difficult situations personal and business-wise. He confessed to me that he lacks self-esteem.

When I hear someone tell me that, I understand what they mean. So you mean be asking, “What does breathing have to do with self-esteem?” I’ll ask you in return, “What doesn’t?”

The fact that I can breathe and so can someone else who has low-self-esteem does not make us any different – we are the same because we are both breathing.

Try this experiment. Draw your focus to how your lungs are expanding and contracting. Count in breaths how long each inhale and exhale is. Pay attention to the temperature of the air entering your lungs. Picture in your mind the colors of the air as it fills your body and all the oxygen is dispersing into your vital organs giving your body the nutrients it needs to survive on this planet.

Depending on how you did this exercise, did you notice how you can be fully enamored by your own breathing patterns? If you didn’t, I suggest that you try the exercise again.

Our breathing is the very thing that makes us alive. The troubles of this life, all its surroundings, including this planet are not any different from us … we are not victims of this chaos we call the universe. We are the universe and the universe is us. When you are breathing, you are not breathing the air, you are breathing yourself and the air is breathing you.

When you consider the issues you are handling today, those issues are not separate from you. You did not originate in a world where candy is free and everyone wins the lottery. You were born into a world of problems the second your mother and father conceived you. Those problems are you and you are the problems you face.

Should this be depressing to hear? Am I trying to make life seem dull and unfulfillable? Is pleasure bad? Am I a masochist? No.

Pleasure is good, I love it. You love it. It’s normal to have pleasure. But pleasure is not the answer to our problems.

In summary, I’m saying that our answers to our problems will never be met if we lose sight of our privilege to live – our privilege to breath. Appreciate EVERYTHING.