The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Waiting To Exhale

If you were going to climb a mountain, would you attempt to do so holding your breath? How about running a mile? Swimming laps in a pool? Walking across the street? Riding a bike? Carrying on a conversation with a friend? Would you hold your breath?

The answer to all of these questions is obvious, isn’t it? The simple act of drawing breath is essential to everything that we do; it’s an essential element to living. Our life on this earth begins with our first breath, and ends with our last. You get the message, right? We have to breathe.

Curiously enough, in spite of our gifted minds, so many of us unknowingly try to get through life holding our breath! In our world today, in our country today, right here and right now, more and more of us are trying to survive without breathing! We are holding our breath, waiting for gas prices to stabilize, waiting for the stock market to calm down, waiting for the election to be over, waiting for the housing market to recover, waiting to get out of Iraq, and waiting for an end to inflation. We are waiting for this recession to come to an end. We are waiting for moral values to return to our society. We are waiting for things to be the way they “used to be”.  We are waiting for life to get better. So what’s wrong with that?

The problem lies in that we are holding our collective breaths waiting for all of this to happen! We wouldn’t climb, or run, or swim, or walk, or bike, or talk without breathing. So why would we try to get through some of the most difficult times our country has faced since the depression, waiting to exhale? We can’t.

Breathe. Right now. It doesn’t matter if someone else is in the room with you. It doesn’t matter if you feel foolish. Keep in mind that at this very moment, someone, somewhere, is doing the very same thing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think that you need to do this; do it anyway!

Through your nose draw in the biggest breath your lungs can possibly handle; now inhale a little more. Hold it for a few seconds. Now slowly exhale through your mouth, and as you do so, release all of the frustration, anger, and fear that you’ve kept bottled up inside for all this time. Feels better, doesn’t it? If you need to try it again, go ahead. It takes a long time to release the pent up feelings that you’ve harbored for weeks, months, perhaps even years. Repeat this as many times as you’d like; there’s no hurry. Just breathe.

Hopefully at this point you’re feeling a little better, so we’ll move on.

Life, or better yet living life, is a matter of perspective; it’s all in the way we look at things. Here’s another exercise for you to try; okay, okay, you don’t have to try it now, but promise yourself to do it later!

You probably have your “favorite” chair in your home or apartment. It may be in your den, living room, or study. You know the one I’m talking about; it’s the one in which you are the most comfortable. The chair. Your chair (mine happens to be in the kitchen).

Try sitting in a different chair in that very same room. Don’t pick the one closest to your favorite. Choose one on the opposite side of the room, or if you’re in the kitchen or dining room, the opposite side of the table. Have a seat. Go ahead, it’s just a chair; it won’t bite! Now close your eyes and clear your thoughts. Remain that way for a minute or so.

Now open your eyes and focus on what is directly in front of you. You’re probably seeing something in this room that you’ve never seen before, or at least not from this particular angle, in this particular light. Take in all that you see, even the smallest details. Now fix your gaze on the chair that you normally sit in. Again, take in all that you see. Isn’t it amazing how your chair looks from a different perspective?

You see, life, or better yet the way we look at life, is a matter of perspective. I offer you several thoughts, several angles, several views, on life, and living your life.

Do you think that you are the only person worried about the economy, gas prices, war, morals, and all the other concerns that were previously mentioned? Do you think that you are alone in struggling to pay that house note, rent, car note, utility bill? Do you think that you have been dealt a hand in life that no one else has. You’re not. You aren’t. You haven’t.

There are hundreds, thousands, millions of people in the world facing many of the problems that you are facing at this very moment. We feel alone with our problems because of our unwillingness to openly admit our fears, our doubts, and our frustrations. We have a tendency to let our pride and ego stand in the way of admitting our feelings. Why are we that way? Why are we afraid to let down our shields, to let others know that we have weaknesses? Why are we afraid to admit that, well to admit that we’re human? Why are we so quick to share all that is good in our lives, yet so reluctant to share that which is not so good?

I like to use the word abundance, which quite simply, means an ample supply of something. Abundance in one’s life can come in many wrappers. One’s list may include an abundance of faith, or health, or wealth, or happiness, or love, or peace of mind. The list goes on and on. Your list of abundance would consist of those things, tangible or intangible, that are most important to you. 

I venture to say that the list of people living in complete and absolute abundance is a very, very, short one. I’m not talking about the individual that has been blessed with 70, or 80, or 90% of his abundance list; I’m talking about the individual who has it all. I would love to meet this person and congratulate him on finding Utopia!

The key to a happy life for the rest of us comes in focusing not on what we don’t have, but in being grateful for what we do have. You’re thinking “it’s the old glass half empty, glass half full” way of looking at life. It’s that but it’s more: when you spend your time dwelling on all that you don’t have, you lose sight of the most important gift that you do have.

If you are reading this, you have been given, for at least one more day, the gift of life. Do you know how many people didn’t get to experience a good, bad, or any kind of day today? How many lives were cut short by illness, accident, violence, or simply old age? Don’t you think that the majority of those people would welcome one more chance to get it right? One more chance to make a difference for those they left behind.  One last time to look into the faces of those they loved. One more day. One more chance.

So many of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the next bit of depressing news, waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

Change your perspective in life. Focus on the good, not the bad. Live in a state of gratitude for those things that you do have, not those things that are missing. Make today count.

Take a deep breath. Exhale. Celebrate today. Celebrate your life.

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Linda wrote on 11/03/08 7:17 AM

Sam, thanks for bringing the task of simply taking a breath to light. It is well known in the medical community that people under stress, for whatever reason, hold their breath. Many therapy sessions begin with a speaker instructing everyone to take a deep breath and exhale. Thank you for your willingness to be "vulnerable" while helping others.

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