Hello again, Breath. I’m sorry I ignored you.

photo of Joe Van Wyk by Dickie Hill

You’re my very best friend.

Breath, I know it is cheesy, and grown men shouldn't have to say it, but seriously—you are my very best friend. Out the womb I came, and “whoosh!”, there you were, inside me, surrounding me. And you haven’t left me since.

We have been through so many joyous times in life together. Sad times too. You know me well. We both know I’m a mess. Constant highs and lows. I’m a blast to be around (except when I’m not). And here you are again, faithfully filling me. Somehow you never get tired of me. I know so, because here you are again, faithfully filling me.

You’re an odd duck, aren’t you?

I mean, no offense, but you are a bit hard to define.

First of all Breath, I know what you are not: breathing. That’s my part. My muscles suck you in and push you out. It’s funny to call it “my part” though, because I really don’t have a choice do I? I just tested myself, trying to keep from breathing you in, and I made it less than a minute before I gasped you in again. You won.

A little research on you shows that, as you enter my body, you consist of about 20% oxygen, and 78% nitrogen. Evidently you contain tiny amounts of other gases like argon, carbon dioxide and cow farts. But then you transform, and become less oxygen and more nitrogen. Not sure if the cow farts stay in my body or not.

So it’s simple: you are just air, right?


As I write this, I am looking out my window at trees and grass getting blown back and forth by a strong breeze. To me, that is air. Pressure is moving it around. I dig it. I’m happy for it. But, I don’t have a relationship with it.

With you on the other hand, I have an intimate relationship. Only a second ago, I thought about you once again, breathed you in, pushed you out, and now I feel different.

When I’m not paying attention to you, you hang with me like the most loyal of friends. Even when I ignore you, you hang in there with me. Thank you.

When I do pay attention to you, that’s when the magic happens.

Breath, when I observe you for just a few ins and outs, it is amazing what happens. For a few seconds, you relieve me from my obsessive thoughts. You relax me. You bring me to the elusive present moment. You energize me. You bring me back to my body.

You are my answer to everything.

  • I just had a spat with my wife! What do I do? (answer: breathe you in, breathe you out.)

  • I’m having an existential crisis! Who am I? (answer: breathe you in, breathe you out.)

  • The money is running out! How the heck am I going to pay next month’s bills? (answer: breathe you in, breateh you out.)

  • My doctor called and told me he is concerned and I need to see a specialist! Now what? (answer: breathe you in, breathe you out.)

But then again, you’re kind of boring.

Friendship is about honesty, right? So, let’s be real. There are so many things I want to be doing rather than focusing on you. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are at the top of the list. I want adrenaline, excitement, entertainment, and distraction. I want to THINK! After all, I have lots of issues, and surely I can resolve them if only I can think through enough scenarios.

You, on the other hand, aren’t so titillating. I perceive you as anything but a quick fix. Ironically, you are the ultimate quick fix while I am dysregulated.

You don’t get happy, and you don’t get sad. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had an angry breath, or a breath with any type of emotion for that matter. Sometimes you are deep, and sometimes you are shallow, but either way you are consistently neutral.

I am so sorry.

For about 99.9% of our relationship I have ignored you. I took you for granted. I undervalued your role in my mental and physical health.

You have stuck with me through some really dark mental health crisis, inviting me to turn to you for healing. But off I went for solutions in a thousand different places other than my present location, in the present moment, surrounded by you.

Sometimes I have even felt embarrassed by you in public. I love the sensation when I do a huge belly breath, sucking you way in. However, I’m a little self conscious about those extra pounds around my mid-section, and my vanity makes me want you up in my puffed up chest, not down in my belly where you belong.

Please take me back.

Breath my old friend, you rock. Even after ignoring you a million times or more, you remain my bestie. You are always there for me. You are right there at the tip of my nose, eager to be breathed in, to heal me, and to be breathed out. And again, and again, and again.

Love you,

Joe Van Wyk
Austin, Texas

#yourstorymatters #mindfulness #breath #joevanwyk

Joe Van WykComment