“Breathe … breathe .. take a breath …” we usually say to those who go through a moment of anxiety, fear or panic. Regularizing your breathing is always an excellent strategy to calm down and to deal with difficulties, without that weight on the stomach that takes away clarity and consciousness. “Breathe!” is an invitation to stop, not to lose the control, not to be overwhelmed by the events. “Breathe!” is the strategy to survive in face of the problems that suffocate and that, in fact, take your breath away. Breathing is a natural and unconscious movement which anxiety is able to interrupt. Like a melodic song that comes out of the genuine mouth, that dread cuts off with unwanted intervals and sighs.
The invitation to breathe oversteps the pure biological mechanics and the natural lung physiology. It evokes a much more radical and vital dynamic for our life: the one that relates to inhaling and exhaling, to receiving and releasing air. Breathing is the act that moves between taking and leaving, assuming and losing. It is the dynamic that accompanies all of life, made up of continuous grasping and releasing. The experience is structured around these two gestures as elementary as they are vitally fruitful: in our times we welcome and give words, people, gestures, events and pains, affections and smiles, joys and efforts. Our time is animated by this singular “trade” between us and the world, this exchange which makes life fully human and joyfully fruitful.
Then the invitation to breathe refers to something more than a simple relaxation technique: it is the encouragement to tune in with the progress of life, the logic that governs the passage of time, the mechanics that make life possible. In other words: remember to accept but also to let go; remind yourself to hold back but also to liberate, to dissolve, to release. How many times in life do we feel so morbidly attached to something to the point of feeling imprisoned by it? How many times does our grasp become a prison, our welcome a cage, our hospitality a confinement? Let’s learn to take and let go, just like we do with the air we inhale; let’s practice embracing but also distancing, letting go, creating distances.
One thing I have learned over time: perhaps we never really possess what we by force hold back and sometimes letting go is just an alternative way to enjoy something with unpredictable novelty…