Remembering How to Breathe

I see you.

I see you struggling with life.

The burden of your job,

the responsibility of your relationships,

thinking that everyone else is succeeding in life 

but you.

I see the pain,

the loneliness,

and the sense of hopelessness

that life will never change for you,

that you’ll never get the chance to follow your dream,

or worse,

that you don’t even have a dream.

You think there’s no way out of your situation,

or if there is,

you’re too damn tired to take it.

Perhaps you don’t realize

there’s a power you have at your disposal,

a portal into another world.

It’s not alcohol or drugs,

sex or sleep.

It’s your inherent ability to breathe.

Every living being can breathe,

in fact, so automatically, 

it’s easy to forget you’re doing it.

But to breathe is to have power.

We often hear people say,

“You should stop and smell the roses,”

but how many times do we heed that advice?

How often do we breathe so deeply

that the smell of lavender tickles our brain cells into a natural high?

How often do we step away from the daily grind,

close our eyes,

and breathe in, 

2, 3, 4,

then hold it…

and breathe out, 

2, 3, 4,

and hold it?

At the end of a busy day,

when my shoulders are burning from stress,

and my back muscles are clenched like unrepentant fists,

I sit still,

remain quiet,

and breathe.

I breathe in as if my life depends on it,

like I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have fresh air coursing through my lungs,

luxurious and exultant.

Then I breathe out,

so deeply,

as if the toxins I need to release from my body are emerging from a bottomless pit.

I breathe, 

and breathe, 

and breathe,

until each part of my body has untangled from its burdens,

until each part of my body feels loved and cared for,

until my skin feels ready to dissolve into the air,

allowing my inner being to expand

and encompass the world.

When I breathe

with attention

and intention

I can access another part of me,

the one that’s limitless,

and overflowing with love.

I choose to believe that there’s real magic in this world,

that portals do exist,

and energies can be manipulated.

I choose to believe 

that if you spend more time being aware of your breath,

then suddenly everything will come into focus.

Your once burdensome job will seem like more of an adventure, 

or a learning opportunity that has reached its expiration date.

Those relationships will feel more special,

tender and temporary,

nurturing,

or else, unworthy of your time.

You will start to see the pain and struggle in others’ eyes,

and realize, you’re not alone, 

you never were.

We’re all going through the same process

of trying to remember 

how to live and love,

of trying to remember 

how to breathe.

Your Gift

My every breath is for you,

but also,

from you –

a gift that often feels like a curse.

You gave me life,

when all I really want is to be with you.

The irony, though, 

is that when we re-unite,

I’ll be too far gone to know it.

You’ve given me this gift of the human experience,

that I may be aware of pain and pleasure,

that I may chart my own path,

creating heaven or hell on earth.

You’ve given me distractions, too,

responsibilities and relationships,

agonies and enchantments.

You insist upon this gulf between us,

making sure that when I get embroiled in this earthly existence,

I will forget you.

But, here, too, your penchant for irony abounds,

because if I don’t forget you,

then how will I ever know the ecstasy that comes 

with awakening to your memory,

of realizing I’m not alone,

and never have been?

Like a child in her mother’s warm embrace,

a lover in her partner’s adoring gaze,

I will feel the relief that comes with surrender.

No matter how far you send me, 

I will find my way back.

Being apart from you is excruciating 

but exquisite, too.

You are the only thing 

that fills the void within.

I see you everywhere –

in the people I love,

and the people I try not to hate.

I see you in the movies I watch

and the books I read,

in mankind’s evolving knowledge of science and space,

their growing wisdom of the mind, body and spirit.

I see you everywhere

and nowhere,

and all I have to keep for myself,

as undeniable proof of your love,

is your gift.

This breath.

I will honor this breath as best as I can.

I will honor this breath as best as I can,

but even when I can’t,

when I mix up my realities

and mess up my priorities,

your gift will still be with me,

never judging,

only loving.

I’ll know that as long as I follow the trail of that breath,

and remember you in my every step,

I will never be lost.

In this moment,

with this breath,

I am yours.

I am yours.

I am yours.

All Stories Can Be Summed Up Into This One Line

We are one.

Whether it’s a Regency-era novel or reality TV, self-help books or Sufi poetry, indie movies or Insta highlights – every story we read/hear gives us a peak into someone else’s life.

The story might be set in a past or future landscape, and take place halfway across the world from you. It might be an encapsulation of one person’s emotions or her description of a moment in time. Whatever the story, each one shows us another perspective, another life into which we could have been born. But just because we weren’t, doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand what it’s like to be “other”.

Stories create empathy. They allow us to see ourselves in others. And if we can truly see our reflection in another person, or in several other people, or, indeed, the whole of mankind, we would realize that we’re all the same. We each have a human body with a soul or consciousness. We all go through the same cycles of life and experience the same laws of nature.

If you walked down the street today, and passed by someone who looked exactly like you, perhaps you’d be more likely to smile and say “Hi!” If your enemy suddenly transformed into your mirror image, you’d probably be more likely to resolve your conflicts and forgive him. What if you saw yourself on the news, being attacked or oppressed in some way; wouldn’t you be more likely to help yourself? To speak up, to tell your story, to call out injustice. To create an uproar.

We are one. And like some idiot who hammers nails into his feet and sets his hair on fire, we’re only hurting ourselves by not taking care of each other. It’s only natural for our world to be in pain right now. It’s a symptom of all the damage we’ve inflicted on each other. What’s unnatural is for us – all of us – to not be screaming out in anguish.

Dayton. El Paso. Chicago.

Kashmir. Palestine. Syria.

The Amazon Forest. Our polluted oceans. The toxic atmosphere.

There is no lack of stories to be told, people and places to be cared for. And the great thing is, there is no lack of love in this world, or positive energy with which to spread that love.

So next time you’re walking down the street, see if you can spot yourself – your thoughts, your emotions, your experiences – in the person that passes you by. Then take a moment to wonder what that person’s story might be. The tingle that you feel in your heart? It’s called Empathy, and it’s just another word for Love.

My First Prose Poem Performance

About nine months ago, I shared a prose poem with all of you entitled, “Bare Naked”. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can find it here. Today, I’m sharing a video of myself for the first time, in which I’m “performing” it. This is new to me, so thank you, in advance, for your views and comments!

The Jaded ‘One’

Five years ago, I started a now inactive blog called “A Storyed Sensibility”. This is a slightly edited re-post of a blog from that site. It still resonates with me today, and I hope it will with you, too. Please share your thoughts below after you’ve read it.

Many of us spend the first two decades of our lives in fear. We are taught by our families to fear God, to be on our best behavior in order to avoid punishment, be it in the pits of hell or behind the palms of our parents’ hands. We’re told to fear falling behind in school and getting bad grades because otherwise, we won’t get into a good college. And if we don’t get into a good college, our future is screwed. We won’t get a decent job, no one will want to marry us, and we’ll spend the rest of our days poor, alone, and miserable. Also, we better make sure we fit in with the masses, because standing out will make us seem different, and different is always bad.

Of course, as you grow into young adulthood, many of the beliefs you once held to be true take the form of the myths they really are. You realize standing out can be a positive thing. It makes you unique. Being different adds richness and diversity to the world. And getting a high salaried office job is not the comfort you once thought it would be. In fact, you’re miserable in your career, despite having more money than you need, and all you want is to feel happy and alive. Short term goals like losing weight and getting that promotion don’t necessarily lead to happiness. And the high of having a glossy magazine-worthy wedding will only last so long; it won’t replace the fissures in your relationship.

A lot of people spend an excessive amount of time in this Jaded Zone, saying things like:

“Life isn’t all it’s knocked up to be.”

“I’m just another cog in the machine.”

“God? Which God? If there was a God, the world wouldn’t be as messed up as it is right now.”

I know this, because I’ve been there. And, every so often, I cycle back to this Jaded Zone.

After a series of random moments of clarity, though, over the course of the last three years, I have come to believe that if you are sincerely in search of the truth, you will eventually find it. In fact, it will be revealed to you.

Each person’s journey is different; their goalposts won’t necessarily match up, but they’ll all eventually arrive at the same truth. It might be an overnight revelation for some, and a life-long struggle for others. For me, it was the year I turned 36; everything changed. I’d been searching for so long, trying to answer all these complex existential questions like, who am I, where is home, what is my mission, why am I so miserable, and why isn’t God responding to me.

What I didn’t realize until then was that He’d been communicating with me all along. I just didn’t have the tools I’d needed to be aware of it. I’d been blind even though I had eyes to see; I’d been deaf though I had ears to hear; and I’d been dumb, despite the fact that, as a member of the most complex species in the world, I had a brain. I’d just been focusing on all the wrong things.

The truth is so simple it hurts. It hurts because I see now how far the world has drifted away from it. And the effort to unmask this worldly façade feels almost futile.

The truth is: we are One. Like the different parts of a body, we can only work effectively, if we work together. If I stab my left hand with my right, it doesn’t help the rest of my body in any way. The health of the entire body, the entire human race, can only be assured, if it extends to everyone.

We are each unique and beautiful in our own way. There is a little piece of God in each of us, and yet we waste so much time worrying that we’re not pretty, or we’re too fat, or we’re unworthy of anyone’s love. Would you ever say God is ugly? Would you ever say God is fat? If, indeed, you believe in God, and you imagine him in the same manner you might imagine Santa Clause – gentle and loving, full of affection, wagging his finger to those kids who’ve been naughty, lavishing gifts on those kids who’ve been nice – then would you ever think him unworthy of love? I don’t think so.

Even if you don’t believe in God, surely you believe there is some kind of Universal Energy or Power which controls the cycles of nature. Do you think that Energy cares if we are rich or poor? Do you think it makes distinctions between which houses are too opulent to be ruined by hurricanes, and which are too spare?

If we can recognize the beauty in each one of us, and forget about the really useless issues, like which designer bag we can afford, or why he/she isn’t returning our calls, then maybe we can move on with the next step in our lives. To put it in mathematical terms,

God’s love = brotherly love = self love

We know it’s important to love God. We’ve been taught to love our fellow man. But what we hardly hear is the importance of loving ourselves. Of respecting our bodies. Of trusting our intuition. And of treasuring our gifts.

Once we realize just how important we are, so much so that God thought us worthy of being created and put on this Earth, we can move ahead with the business of trying to figure out why we’re here. What is our mission? Because I’m pretty sure it isn’t just to break our backs making money and then spending it all to live in empty comfort. Each of us is here for a different reason. And what I’m starting to believe is that God only reveals your path if you are truly searching for it. The internal struggle, the curiosity, the desire to ‘do more’ and ‘be more’ – that’s a pre-requisite.

The lucky ones among us may have been hearing this message from Day One. Perhaps their parents were already enlightened. Most of us, though, have parents who’ve had their own struggles in life; they weren’t necessarily able to lift themselves out of their troubles long enough to realize what was what. But today, everything is different. The world is smaller than it’s ever been before. We’re more connected than ever, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that we’re all in this together. We can either all spectacularly fail together, or we can slowly plod our way to progress.

All it takes is a bit of reflection. If we can shut our Netflix for long enough, and stop taking selfies, if we can stop scrolling through Instagram and playing video games for long enough, we might just be able to experience this truth. That we are all One. And submitting to God is only as good as your ability to submit to each other. That love comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. And it is a far better unifier than hate.

We are far from destroyed. We need not be disheartened. We have only to treat each other the way we want to be treated. There’s a reason they call it the Golden Rule. We have only to continue our education insofar as it helps us to learn more about how the world works. We have only to bask in the awe of how different we all are and to focus on the reality of how similar we all are. We have only to be our best selves; to be good to our families, friends, and neighbors; to learn what our missions are and how we can utilize our talents towards those missions; to stand up for the truth; and to spread the message of Oneness. We have only to love each person on this planet, no matter how wretched or saintly, because God considered each one of them worthy of Creation. We have only to fight our own demons, be they negativity, addiction, envy, rage, or fear. We have only to try. And to keep trying. And to try even harder, yet fall countless times, only to get up and try again.

And we have only one life in which to do it.

Do You Feel Loved?

I’ve been thinking lately about this whole idea of people feeling alone, even when they’re surrounded by a room full of others. We all feel this way sometimes. And it makes me wonder, why? Why is this loneliness such a common phenomenon? Why are we having such a hard time feeling connected to others? Is it that we’re not putting ourselves out there enough? Or are we putting ourselves out there too much, and just not getting any response? Are we hanging out with the wrong people? There are a ton of questions in my mind and even fewer answers.

I’m sure the reasons for being lonely vary from person to person. But one common theme that emerges when I talk to others, is that they are afraid of rejection, which stems from their core belief that they do not feel like they are good enough. If we believe we’re not good enough – because we’re too fat or too skinny, too shy or too hyper, too anything – then we feel the chance of being rejected by another person is high. Before we can experience the pain of rejection, we withdraw. We don’t reveal our true selves, or we pretend to be the kind of person other people would like. And where do we get our ideas about what makes a person likable? Well, I guess it’s all around us, in the TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the ads in magazines or on billboards. Sure, we can blame the media for not including more diverse representations of people who are liked and accepted by society, but we continue to suffer. If we don’t make a concerted effort to be more self-aware and reflect on our own thought patterns and consequent behaviors, we’ll never break this cycle of feeling unworthy.

If you’re reading this right now, I invite you to close your eyes and imagine for a minute how it would feel if someone you cared about loved you and recognized you for being exactly who you are? This person could be a parent, a partner, a friend, anyone. Even if it’s not a reflection of your reality, just imagine that person appreciates you for simply being. Not for what you can do for them. Just for simply being.

How does it feel? Does it feel like a relief to let go of all the different masks you wear and people you pretend to be? Isn’t it freeing to disengage with all your fears and insecurities? Do you feel a sense of warmth from the knowledge that you are loved? Perhaps you can’t change how others treat you, but you can certainly change the way you respond to them. If you could walk around with this feeling of freedom from your self-imposed beliefs, and this sense of being loved for who you are, couldn’t that change your entire perception of life?

I know it’s easier said than done, but you cannot stop trying. Even when you are at your worst, you must remember that you are loved. Maybe not by the person you desire, or in the way you desire, but by the someone or something that created you. You are loved. That is the belief I have started carrying within me, to replace all the previous lies I used to tell myself. And this belief emerged after many years of struggle and despondency. It started to grow in me, the moment I made a conscious decision to lead a meaningful life in a quest for connection, with the world and God. The moment I decided to cast off the masks and be my true self.

Maybe we can start our road to feeling worthy by doing the exercise above from time to time, and imagining what it feels like to be confident in our own skins, and let go of all the emotional baggage weighing us down. If we spend enough time thinking about it and relishing in the surge of love that comes from within, maybe we can take small steps in our real lives to be our true selves. If we feel like we don’t even know our true selves, then we must commit to a journey of honesty and self-discovery. Let the Universe do the rest.