Breathe Out, Breathe In

“Breath” 1. the air inhaled and exhaled in respiration; 2. life; vitality 3. time to breathe; pause or respite Adapted from dictionary.reference.com

Spring break from school began today, and true to form, winter came roaring back just in time to celebrate the moment. No matter. The coming week will be filled with recording my compositions, especially the vocal tracks, as I finally prepare to release my solo album of compositions “House of Sound.” I hope to unveil the first completed song next week; for now, I am celebrating the completion of a four part song cycle – “The Four Elements.”

I have mentioned this work before when I blogged about my struggle with Fire and Light. This week marked the completion of the last piece “Breath.” This was another difficult piece to embrace, to find my way through. In The Four Elements, each of the elements – earth, air, water, fire – has been translated to a particular instance of that element. Earth became “Clay”, water became “Rain”, and fire became “Light”. Although I knew that I wanted air to become “Breath” I could not find the in, the twist, the kernel of meaning that would allow the song to realize itself.

After eight pages of researched notes, I was drowning in information but had found no inspiration. Finally, I stood back and asked myself “what was the most important aspect of breath?” Two things stood out.

The first was that although we can live for thirty days without food and three days without water, we can live for only five minutes without air. My father suffered from emphysema, which ultimately meant that he couldn’t empty his lungs deeply enough in order to make room for fresh air. I began to see this as an apt metaphor for modern life – “making room to breathe” takes on a whole new and urgent context, since what we release becomes as important as what we acquire.

The second and more important discovery was that every culture, every religion and philosophy has a word that means both “breath” and “spirit of life/energy/vitality.” In Latin, the word is spiritus, in Chinese it is chi, in Hebrew is ruach, in Sanskrit it is prana. Some of these words may be familiar to you, and there are many more examples. Somehow, as humans, we perceive that breath is not only essential to physical life but is representative of something larger and greater than ourselves, the source of life however mysterious and elusive it may seem.

After a difficult and hectic week of antsy students, problematic software, and lost objects,  the piece I just completed plays through my mind and reminds me to “breathe out, breathe in.” Air, breath, spirit. “Breathe out, breathe in” –  an intentional practice of breathing that leads me to pause, leads me to discover quiet balance and a vitality filled moment. Breathe . . .

Partial lyrics to “Breath” ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All rights reserved

Insubstantial, hard to hold,
Never seen, yet power unfolds to
drive the clouds and gyre the sea.
Breathe.

Breathe out . . . breathe in . . .
Balanced in the space between
Silence . . . stillness . . .
until the breath moves through again.

31 thoughts on “Breathe Out, Breathe In

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  4. Isn’t it funny how inspiration can come when we least expect it such as your case here – all that research and yet the solution you discovered seems so appropriate as it came from your own experience. I’m just catching up with your posts and will be interested to see how you’ve gone on. Good luck!

  5. Do I ever resonate with this posting of yours, Lynn. The lyrics for ‘breath’ are substantial. I particularly love the first stanza. I was diagnosed with mild COPD (new term for emphysema) myself, and can relate with your father’s struggle. My remedy is swimming. I swim 1.5 miles 3x a week without stopping, 90 full minutes. And I now can hardly tell there’s anything amiss, and have the most wonderful ability to breathe deeply after leaving the pool. Thank you for posting this, and for keeping us informed of your project’s progress.

    • Lance, I am deeply moved that my words had meaning for you. COPD is no small thing, and the fact that you are actively working to maintain your health is fantastic – bravo! My father did benefit from his musical life as a trombonist; he went many many years without having to use supplementary oxygen and even later continued to play in ensembles – the power of music.

  6. I love this Lynn. I particularly like “what we release becomes as important as what we acquire”. I’ve found in my life, what I released was became MORE important than what I acquired; it opened up an entirely new life of freedom for me!
    I discovered long ago, when I was a fitness instructor, that breathing helped cleanse my body, cause me to pause, helped me release – tension, frustration, stress, etc. – making room for clarity and balance. I made it a practice especially under stressful circumstances. Now I notice that I do it in tense moments without a purposeful thought; it’s just became a habit. And a good one at that.
    Looking forward to The Four Elements!
    P.S. And thanks for stopping by to read my post and taking a moment to congratulate me. Your continued encouragement means more than you know. 🙂

    • Paula, you always have wonderful things to say, and I am always inspired by your connection to nature. How interesting that you were a fitness instructor! My yoga teacher inspires me to lead a better physical life (I who have always eschewed physical fitness!), and it is her voice that I hear in my head – “breathe . . ” – I plan to include her voice in the recording 🙂

  7. Wonderful post, I think we all need moments to just breathe and relax! Looking forward to the rest of the series! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Looking forward to it! All the best with completion 🙂

    This line, below, perfectly captures the ‘release’ mode I’ve been in lately, feeling an urgent need to exhale in all corners of my life. It’s time for bucket loads of fresh air to come in:

    ‘“making room to breathe” takes on a whole new and urgent context, since what we release becomes as important as what we acquire.’

  9. ” Air, breath, spirit. “Breathe out, breathe in.”

    Lynn, I can hardly wait. . .how lovely. I am really trying to find that place in my life these days. It was revelational to read the section about your father and how the inability to expel old air doesn’t allow room for the “fresh” air. Metaphorically for me, that is anxiety, angst-driven preoccupation with non-essentials, and just daily stress of trying to “get over” in a world gone crazy. Most excellent! ET

    • Eleanor, thank you for your comments. I was surprised to find out that many lung diseases are about not being able to exhale deeply enough and make room for new air- not what you would expect. I had a hectic week too, so, take a deep breath, let go 🙂

    • Catherine, thanks so much. I just left a message for you on your latest post, which was so wonderful, a “breath of fresh air” so to speak. It is great to be in the “composition space” and this latest piece continues to resonate within me in a very potent way. I plan to post the completed song in May 🙂

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