We focus so much on our breath during meditation because it resembles so much of our existence. We feel the breath coming in, pull it closer, and then let it out slowly, experiencing its release. If we did not release that old breath, that breath that was so sweet and perfect when it came to us, we’d suffocate. It has become what would kill us.
There are so many things in our lives that resemble that sweet breath. I’ll take the experience I’m having now, motherhood. You hear people talk about motherhood being forever, that your children are always your babies no matter how old they get. That may be true on some levels. I know that when I look into the eyes of my 6-foot tall 16-year-old son, I still see the “Mommy! Please!” look when he really wants something. I know I will always want to run to his aid and pet his head. But is it healthy for us to not allow that relationship to evolve and grow? My son doesn’t need me to hold his hand to cross the street. He doesn’t need me to be involved in every decision he makes like he did when he was little. Every conquest, every learned skill doesn’t need to be brought to my attention. It used to though and that made my heart so happy. Our lives have been closely connected the last 16 years but as he grows into a man, I know I’m working myself out of a job. I had my first painful glimpse of that this week when I realized he knew people that I didn’t know, and it was a girl. That seemed to make it even worse. The feeling of betrayal washed over me. “You’re only supposed to love me!”, I thought to myself. But that’s not true and we know it. I let the feeling wash over me and leave. I’m excited to see a new side of my son. I’m happy to see him moving out into the world without me, but I panic to think I won’t be there to hold his hand unless he wants me to. Remember that movie, Abyss, when they show the rat breathing the fluid? I feel like that rat. The water is coming up and I know it will soon cover my head. There will be a point that I cannot hold my breath any longer and will be forced to take that breath of fluid. Unlike the rat, the people knew logically that they would be able to breathe that fluid, yet they still panicked. Some more than others. Will I panic? Or will I let the panic wash over me and leave, so that I can breathe easily and continue on to the next place in my life?
Right now I’m taking many deep breaths and remembering them each time. Feeling them come and go reminds me that the old goes out and the new comes in and it’s just as sweet as that first breath. And then I remember I have to go through all of this twice, with my younger son right behind the older. It feels so much like loss but I know, logically, that it’s not. It’s just a change and how that change goes depends largely on how much I panic and fight against it. I’m scared and excited all at once. I’m not sure that I like it at all, but I guess I don’t really have a choice, do I?