I wanted to write a little bit about breathing. Exhaling, really. Breathing is important to me. I consciously think about breathing, having inhaled more chemicals, noxious gases, fumes, smokes, odors, vent-offs and mists than most. I was also a runner. A typical daily regimen was 5 miles under load, 5 miles warm up, then 5 miles hills. School would follow, then sports or mischief, and skiing on the weekends. My youth was motion. Now my program consists of shoveling, muck, and ingenuity.

I understand that the best we can do is fill ourselves with a healthy mix of the right elements, then exhale the burned off gases and toxins, like venting fumes from an engine in motion. Breathing is a lot like eating. As we eat, nutrients are chomped and funneled into a mix, then cured while the minerals and vitamins leech into our systems. We capitalize on the magic, harnessing energy for lovemaking, hugs, piano lessons and paintball. Air, food and water go into the engine. And out the tail pipe comes sludge, carbon, and spent cell casings. Suck in good, blow off exhaust.

The intake and output of breathing occurs at a faster rate than eating. The turn over is quicker, and that’s because the fuel and the exhaust are faster, lighter, and less condensed. Quicker to burn, quicker to spew. Here’s some medieval logic: Air slips faster than water; water slips faster than solid; witches taste like pancakes. Essentially, floating molecules have less friction—and an exposed surface area can be acted upon easier.

This sums up breathing. Unless, I consider the little engine brewing and churning in my head, my ideas mill. Inside I have a stew pot forming images into words and crude sentences. That’s the slurry from which I ladle to you now. From my bowl to yours. And my little slow cooker brain operates like breathing or eating. I absorb impressions and images; I learn from experiences; I muse and rev-elate; I chew on sensations. All these healthy thought nutrients flood my baffles and churn into batter lighter than air, slipperier than mist. My little thinking pump also has byproducts and exhaust. Sometimes juicy bits plop out. PiNg. There they go, popping on the screen or in conversation—ideas as words and gestures with meaning—filtered through me! If I’m not in tune, I sputter. Other times, the “occupied” sign goes up while I purge and backfire moods.

Sensation, ideas, impressions, thoughts—they have a magical weight. They move quicker. Thoughts dance on an event horizon and leave whimsical exhaust. Thoughts blow away easier, like fluff. But thoughts can build up in clumps or corners. Thoughts can wear grooves in our thinking, balling up in our frontal cortex. Some begin as dust bunnies then clog sensors to real experience. Vacuum them out or they might bog you down, or worse, catch fire.

In goes the image of the silly man selling me wisdom at the grocery store, and out comes a rant on check out aisle efficiency. Input, output. The anxious laugh I shared with a neighbor, talking about the direction of offspring, vents in an opinion on troubled youth. Rumor in, essay out. I pause and consider the sky’s colors as today ends, appreciation perfumes the air. Inhale, exhale.

I’m standing outside thinking this. The clouds are low and my world appears smaller, more tangible, embraced in a blanket. I search for green, coniferous, fir and pine, shades of bramble and sprigs of grass. Much else is ocher, brown, tawny and straw white. A line of sight takes me along a corridor from where I stand, past the branches and twigs, over the scrub and upward into the undulating infinity of gray clouds. All about are clicks and whistles, birds and rodents surround the scape. The air is still and only life breathes. I can breathe. My senses pull inward, suctioning the life, ease and contentment. The mind fills with freedom and vista, drinking from a glass of serene peace, swallowing gulps of a personal real, inhaling, immersing.

And when my mind is full, gorged on these seconds of pure sensation, the engine turns over, the piston compresses, and a valve opens… out flows my exhaust, spewing opinions and biases, angers and distrusts, burnt fumes of vile and disgust. News I have gathered, and rumors I’ve indulged, all flow outward in swirling toxins of thought. Let it go. With each paced breath, my mind opens to the moment of serenity and wonder, then pushes out fear and anxiety. Out to the bog land my torment blows, among the scrub and brambles, where hardy plants can process thoughts, break them down, and absorb the compost as part of the soils—basic elements once again. I breathe in good vibes, and exhale bad vibes. And nature is OK with that.

Similar to breathing and eating, the thoughts we absorb or inhale can taint our systems, leaving impressions like zits, giving us gas and biases, or clogged senses. The byproducts of over stimulation can emit a foul exhaust. Input and output. The energy created by the ideas we brew can inspire us, or mire us in loss and fear. All I absorb begins to shape my character.

How do I try to keep my brain pumping clean? I run it. I exhale. Exertion, cleansing thoughts, beginning each opportunity with a strong, well muscled, crystal slate—it’s just like exercise. Exhaling is the most effective means of detoxification used by the body because the fumes are easier to expunge. Imagine how slick your thoughts can detoxify. With a clear mind, pain is richer, more lucid, and bliss becomes clearer, more precious. Love is more complete. And simple tones are easier to appreciate. I am never bored, sipping on sensation and experience. Subtle nuances are easy to recognize. I don’t need an explosion to get a rush. I like to choose my stimulation like one might select a favorite flavor.

I am also aware of situations that give me bad vibes, unease and pressure. I don’t mean natural tension, fight or flight is exhilarating. There is a rewarding glow had eluding an angry moose, or evading death in an escalator mishap. Both experiences are brilliantly here and now, and full of good zen. What I avoid are angers unresolved, or fermented distrust and worry. I exhale these thoughts as soon as I find an open window. If an issue bothers me, I look for the logical outcome—admit it—then release the clutter of worry and doubt. If a source is spewing their own exhaust, I don’t stick around and suck on mental tailpipes. However, I will try to cart out innocents, people I find stuck in mire, choking on misery.

As I leave this little gasp on breathing, I’d like to share a personal discovery. Other creatures smell your breath. They have great, intuitive noses. They can pick up on diet, blood, movement, direction, even your fright level. I believe the same is true of thoughts. Our output has a flavor, a scent. Try this… take a moment or a bus ride out to a meadow. Breathe in energy and peace, then exhale inhibition and hatred. Take deep, slow, mental breaths. Really fill your mind with the essence of life’s garden and then squeeeeze out all the baggage. As the mosquitoes come to dance on your sweet breath, so might the deer sip from your dreams. Exhale.


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