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When Breath Becomes A Friend

Posted: February 19, 2019

“I have been with you for lifetimes. I am your friend, always waiting for you. Will you pause a while and smell the wild flowers with me?”

2019 is the year in which our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry. The writing cue for February 2019 is from the poetry of Mary Oliver, passed away on 17th January 2019, aged 83. This is a tribute to her, and her memorable words, taken from her poem, The Summer Day.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

The third winner of our February 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Priya Nagesh.

When Breath Becomes A Friend

Precious…. Beautiful….. STOP….. P-a-u-s-e…. Your life!…. YOUR LIFE……”  I jammed my palms on my ears, trying to shut out the babble. What was this noise? These voices? What kept ringing in my ears? Who were these specimens daring to take residence in me? In the meanwhile, “Wild flowers… Love… Unconditional… Breathing…” The sounds in my ears waxed and waned like the inconstant moon. I couldn’t get all of it, all at once.

I turned to the god of these internet times. I googled. Tinnitus?! Auditory Hallucinations?!! Oh. My. God. Was I going crazy?

The next morning I went about my daily tasks, whistling. One of the voices seemed to taunt, “False Bravado!” Ignoring this evidence of a shaken world, I whistled defiantly and went shopping. My favourite bookstore was just around the corner. I browsed through Wordsworth and Coleridge, Silappadikaaram and Kumaarasambhavam. Touched the treasure-house of gems lovingly, inhaling their scent, trying for an orgasm. I felt something sharp and looked up to find a store assistant’s piercing stare. Any more drama and she would have had me booted out of there for indecent behaviour. I shuffled out carrying a deflated defiance.

SLOWING….. hearts…. Hurts… scars…. Shadows…” There it goes again. I panic. How do I stop them? I became a squawking, headless chicken for a few years.

I learnt to ignore the voices. I conjured up countless strategies and escape technologies to distract myself from them. There were books of course, always. And articles, essays, magazines, conversations, lectures, discussions, words and more words to escape into. Then came the movies. I went to the big screens with friends. Watched several more with my husband at home. Coerced unsuspecting audiences into movie binges. Until at last everyone else got tired of the game and I started burning the midnight oil by myself.

As time grew old, I became a pro at dropping earlier distractions and collecting new ones. Anything to drown out the incessant sound. I had realised by now that it was a single voice. And it modulated itself according to my mood!

My legs grew weaker with age. I got breathless and started wheezing, climbing stairs one day. That’s when I noticed my breath. Oh! I had to breathe in! And I could go on and on, filling my lungs. And then I breathed out. Pffft! Was that it? Not much came out. I had sucked in a LOT of air. Where did it all go? Ok, I turned to Googleshwar again.

Breathe…Exhale….Inhale….Yoga. Yoga?!  That sounded interesting. I looked up the instructors and institutions, the philosophies and the promises. There were zillions. I hadn’t realised that Yoga was such a fashion these days.

In the next few months, I met a new friend – my Breath. And she fast became my best. She introduced me to life! She taught me to slow down and enjoy the line of ants crawling along the edge of the wall. She showed me how to make new eyes at an old lover and befuddle him. My Breath can be full of mischief! She laughs at my jokes and gurgles at babies. She kicks out swiftly, when I get roused. She wrinkles her nose and whooshes out at the stench from the open drain. She becomes my melody as I listen to the dozen birdcalls sitting on my terrace at dawn.

This morning, I got up and walked to the wash basin. I looked up into the mirror, and time stood still. As I exhaled in one long go, my friend introduced me to me. My deepest intent spoke to me, and at last I stopped running. I listened.

I have been with you for lifetimes. I am your friend, always waiting for you. Will you pause a while and smell the wild flowers with me? Feel the breeze. You have had beautiful and precious lives, searching for all that you desire, running away from all that you don’t. You have gotten hurt, and you have in turn hurt, along the way. See those scars of battle. Allow them to heal. Sit with me in the shadows and cool down for a bit. Breath is here too, isn’t she? She can move inside you and outside anywhere, and show you the way. You mean you don’t know? All paths lead to Love. Some call it Intelligence. Some others, God. Still others enquire into their True Nature. What’s in a name etc. You know Shakespeare’s famous lines. So, here we are together. Let’s sit and watch life awhile.

Priya Nagesh wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations! 

Image source: pixabay

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Yoga Therapist, Energy-based healing (including Reiki) practitioner, and Poet living in Tiruvannamalai. As in

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