First and Last Breath

Mark Nepo in his new book 7000 Ways to Listen shares the following story...

At a gathering in San Francisco, I met Marco, a careful and patient photographer from Santa Clara.

When asked what surprised him during the last year, his voice began to quiver. He'd witnessed two breaths that had changed his life. His daughter's first breath. then his mother's last breath.

As his daughter inhaled the world, it seemed to awaken her soul on Earth.

As his mother exhaled hers, it seemed to free her soul of the world.

These two breaths jarred Marco to live more openly and honestly.

He took those two breaths into his own daily breathing and quickly saw their common presence in everyone's breathing. Is it possible that, with each inhalation, we take in the world and awaken our soul? And with each exhalation, do we free ourselves of the world, which inevitably entangles us?

Is this how we fill up and empty a hundred times a day, always seeking the gift of the two breaths? Perhaps this is the work of being.

- Can you remember experiencing someones first or last breath? How did that event impact you? (Below is my answer to this question).

A few years ago when my mother died I was able to be there for her last breath (as she was there for my first breath) and that was a very sacred moment. I felt so honored to be by her side in those last moments. It reminded me of a story from Space for God by Postema

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it - every, every minute?”
Emily, a young woman in Thornton Wilder’s Play Our Town asks that question.

In the play emily dies in childbirth, but is granted a unique experience: the Stage Manager allows her to return from death and live one day of her life with her family.

Although Emily has high hopes for that one day, she is disappointed. Just before she returns to her place in the cemetery, she reveals her frustration to the Stage Manager:

Emily: We don’t have time to look at one another. (She breaks down, sobbing.) I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed…

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it - every, every minute?

Stage Manager: No. (Pause) The saints and poets, maybe - they do some.

Emily’s observation challenges us to live with awareness, realizing: Life while we live it - every minute.” We need to be reminded to appreciate all that is going on around us and inside of us, to be in touch with other people and ourselves.

In five weeks time (Jan 22nd) my wonderful wife will give birth to our first baby and we will experience their first breath on this tiny spinning globe (we call earth). That is a moment we're so excited to witness.

- Become aware of your breathing today, use it as a reminder... as you breathe in receive this moment and the gift of life and fully experience it (as best as you can)....As you breathe out release this moment and any attachment you have to lingering feelings, thoughts and doubts. Then begin again afresh...each moment is a new beginning.