Newbies to meditation and yoga quickly discover a quirky reality to these disciplines, a seemingly unending, and oddly reverential, focus on “the breath.” Breathing. In and out. In and out. This doesn’t seem to be a particularly profound concept. It’s probably only second on the list of things we immediately learn upon entering mortality, the first lesson: being born is not-as-much-fun-as-the-ad-said-it-would-be, and the second: BREATHE! In and out. Over and over again. I guess it makes sense that the start of a meditation practice takes us back to those very first lessons, life involves suffering, and keep breathing. As we get a little older, perhaps in the middle of a torrential two year old tantrum, we experiment more with holding our breath – in, in, in… but eventually we must exhale and make room for the next breath. As an adult there are moments, of happiness and sweetness, that I want to only breathe in, in, in, and hold on to it forever.
And yet, like the red-faced child, eventually I have to let go and make room for the next thing. This is one lesson I’ve learned, from all this breathing in and out, you can’t do just half the process, only in, or only out. Being alive means you have to both take things in and let things go, receive and give. Do just one, and, well, you’ll be dead. What a metaphor for life.
It reminds me of two seas in the Holy Land. First, the Dead Sea, which only has water flowing into it; as the water pools and evaporates a thick residue of minerals are left behind, killing all life. Second, the Red Sea, where the waters come, and the waters go; this sea is alive, brimming with all kinds of colorful fish for the snorkelers to gawk at. (There is not a sea that only gives, by the way, because if there had been such a sea, it would have drained long ago.) Interesting, isn’t it, that the Lord refers to himself as “the living water.” We take in this “living water,” as we receive Him, and we give as we serve one another. In and out. In and out. Only giving, or only receiving, would be draining or toxic. My full “aliveness” comes from both, receiving the Savior, and giving to others out of the “living water” He fills me with.
Hmmm… maybe there are things to learn from all this “in and out” business after all….