We are taught our way out of breathing, then we exhaust ourselves earning our way to breathe again.
My teacher says that when we exhale, we should bring mindfulness to our breath and try to exhale for twice as long as we inhale. This is because in our daily lives we’re constantly inhaling - taking, taking - more than we’re exhaling, and there comes an imbalance. We need to take time to become still, to focus on breathing alone, and exhale. Our breath is our only constant, and everything else that we identify with is a parallel to our breath. As I’m unlearning my conditioning and relearning how to breathe with my whole being, these parallels are rearing their heads all around me.
I’m passing Roman Road Market and everyone is buying, buying, buying at a rate I’m sure is unsustainable. In our society, we all buy far faster than we wear things out - and this is because we get bored of what we already have. We are taught to have an insatiable thirst for fashion, for upgrading before things are broken, for keeping up with the times, for not being left behind. We don’t wear things into the ground; we don’t use things into the ground. We pay others, far away, whom we’ll never meet, to dig into the ground, to plough the earth’s resources at an irreplaceable pace, to produce materials for us to call ‘cute', ’so you', and 'this season'. We’re disconnected, and when questioned we argue that we as one person cannot make a difference.
We ingest, ingest, ingest at a rate we cannot expend. We are an obese nation, sold fast and greasy food at a fraction of the cost of home-cooking. We are taught that certain sources of energy for our bodies are ‘manly’, assured in a bubble of manliness and blindly blissful in cognitive dissonance. It’s as if compassion never made a man, and whilst historically, speaking up for the voiceless was considered heroic, a conscious man today is labelled a pussy if his cause calls out your own hypocrisy.
And at the same time we are taught that certain ways of expending our energy are ‘for girls’; anyone can shoot a ball through a hoop, but dribbling with that same ball requires a penis. Our very energy-in and energy-out is genderised with yin qualities being sold to women and yang qualities being sold to men, and then we spend our adult lives searching for the half that we’re missing to complete us.
We take in, we take in, we take in all that we are exposed to - as babies, as schoolchildren and no less as adults, and then we judge others based on the conditioning they had no choice but to be exposed to. How different is it from our own? Are those differences attractive to us, or should we alienate this person? There’s no scaling it back to the love we had once upon a time as children, before we were so written on. We keep on inhaling our environment - a calculated attack on our senses - of advertising, celebrity and false ideals conceived just to make us believe that spending money can buy us time.
But when it comes to reflecting - exhaling - and stillness, when it comes to pausing to contemplate on the way we’re reacting to our constant sensual stimulation, we say we have no time for that, just like any normal person doesn't. We have no time because it’s 2015 and we’re busy people.
Exhaling is half of existence, yet we continue to believe that productivity is an absolute that pairs with the waking state. Recharging is only for when we are physically exhausted - sleeping comes when we tell ourselves it is necessary. There is little rest to our waking, and we focus so much on the waking that we end up buying our rest in a bottle or a package deal when we decide we have the time. This is why everyone loves the idea of yoga, yet few people actually practise.
Invite balance back into your life; feel the progress that comes with regressing to a childlike state of play, turning upside-down when it feels good. Wellbeing is so much more than feeling okay. Wealth is so much more than money.
Come, and play, and thrive. Inhale, exhale, exhale.