Monday, December 24, 2012

Using Myself Up

The idea of breathing does not enter human thought until about the age of five. Until then, breathing is an automatic function.

Breathing, like the beating heart or walking feet, is known to us through our senses and not our consciousness.

Learning to swim is often a trigger for our initial focus on our breath. When the ability to bring in oxygen to our lungs is hindered by the thick fluid, we suddenly know we want to breathe. 

 Holding our breath gives another automatic reaction to want to breathe more. Most people can only hold their breath for two or three minutes before their body overwhelms their will and the lungs begin to suck oxygen again.

Although we breathe faster as children and slower as adults, we average about seventeen breaths a minute during the course of our lives.

Seventeen times each minute our diaphragm pulls in oxygen and pushes out carbon dioxide. Seventeen times each minute we take a piece of the world into ourselves, extract what we need, and eject the waste.

Countless Billions

Every breath contains about a liter of air.

There are about 600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (600 sextillion) molecules of oxygen in a single breath of air. There are only about 300,000,000,000 (300 billion) stars in our galaxy.

The amount of material we ingest and reject with each breath is beyond our ability to comprehend.

There is a limited amount of air that we all breathe. In a life time there is high probability that we all breathe the same air that everyone who has lived before us breathed.

Shared Breath

The breath that was in you was in Moses. The breath that was in you was in Stalin. Your breath is my breath, the breath we all share in common.

Learning to measure our breath is a sign of self-control, a means of defining our maturity.  Steadying your breathing can bring calm.

Hyperventilating can bring excitement.

Breath is Life

Breathing deeply is a metaphor of taking in the little joys of life.  Breathing words is to be alive with others.

Breath, like life, is finite; it eventually comes to an end.

When we start breathing we are said to be alive. When we stop breathing we are said to be dead.  Breath is our universal image of life.

Breath Counts

Most animals have about an equal proportion of breaths in their span of existence. Mice breathe faster and elephants breathe slower, but they have a similar quota of breaths from the time they are born until they are alive no more.

The average human breathes just over 40 billion times in their lives.  I have used well over half of mine.  And with each breath, I use me up.