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