By Mary Boutillier
Welcome to this amazing, unrepeatable, unique, and unfinished day—to this very present moment where everything, at least right now, is okay and as it should be. Take a brief moment to feel your breath—the inhale, the nanosecond between inhale and exhale, the exhale, and the pause in between. How does it feel to follow your breath—maybe noticing the temperature of the air as it moves in through your nose and out again, its depth or shallowness, ease or struggle? This thing—our breath—that we often take for granted, is something we don’t have to think about or work particularly hard at, most of the time.
Yet there is another aspect to the breath that we rarely contemplate. It’s the tiny little death that each cycle of breath represents. Each time we take a breath, we don’t know for sure if it could be our last. And not only do we not know, but we don’t want to know! Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said this: “Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.”
As humans, we have this amazing ability to know for sure that some day we will die but then act as if it will never happen. So we continue with our routines; we wait for the perfect time to do or say something, we go on about our lives as if nothing will ever happen to us and we’ll always have the time to do the thing that we should/must/need/want to do.
Recently I spoke with a friend whose sister passed away. She said that she knew her sister was sick and was making plans to go see her, but her sister insisted that she was getting better and that there was plenty of time to visit. After some debate, my friend made plans anyway, got on a plane and flew across the country—arriving just hours after her sister passed away. As I spoke with her on the phone, she talked about not getting to see her sister one last time, about not being able to reminisce or hold her hand. Although there is no changing what already transpired, my friend’s heavy heart still wishes it were different.
Just two days ago, I walked through a cemetery (trust me, I don’t do that very often!) and looked at some of the grave markers—names, dates, relationships—and I jokingly said to my husband something that we often hear: “Well, no one’s getting out of here alive.” Then I thought of squabbles with family members, the seriousness with which I take most things, the recent gossip I participated in, the hurt feelings, the love, the meaning and depth and breadth of this life…
I squeezed my husband’s hand a little tighter and told him I loved him. I watched two geese fly overhead—mated for life, and thought of love’s example and the simplicity of kindness and the ups and downs of this really awesome life. Many of us have privilege beyond our wildest dreams, we have relationships we cherish, opportunities some can only wish for; and yet we stick our heads in our cell phones and our routines and rarely look up. We think we have time to let go of grievances, to tell someone how we feel, to ask forgiveness, and to seek joy and honesty and passion. But the truth is, we don’t really know for sure, do we?
Today I walked through the woods and took a purposeful, deep breath. I thought about how lucky I was to be able to take another breath…and then another. I looked around at the trees, some canyons, read plaques about the history of the area’s people; and paused to take in the path of my life. Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” According to Steve’s sister, Mona Simpson, his final words were: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
These words aren’t meant to depress us, but to give us permission (and maybe a little nudge) to live while we are alive. If you can do it, don’t wait until tomorrow or the next day to say what’s in your heart, to give someone a hug, to make that phone call, to see the place that’s on your bucket list. Be willing to see the other side, the other point of view, the hope and possibility in another new day. And then remember, in this very present moment, everything is okay.
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.