I’m convinced that the most underappreciated aspect of daily living is our lungs. Did you know that, on average, you take roughly 22,000 breaths per day? 22,000! That’s a lot of breaths! Breathing is primarily a subconscious effort, meaning that it happens and you don’t have to think about it. Yet, you can turn it into a conscious effort when you do think about it, and you can accelerate it or even stop it by holding your breath. Yet, even when you sleep, you’re still breathing. Your lungs are a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-per-year machine. Twenty two thousand breaths per day equals around 8.5 million breaths per year. And if you live to age 80, you’ll breath over 672 billion times! And, since the average human sleeps about a third of their lives, that means you’ll take over 222 billion breaths while asleep.
We are powered by our breathing. Our lungs fuel us with life giving oxygen, which is our body’s life sustaining gas. Our lungs breathe in air, then they remove the oxygen out of it and pass it through our bloodstream. The oxygen is then carried off to the tissues and organs that allow us to walk, talk, heal and move. When we breathe out, our lungs also takes carbon dioxide from our blood and releases it back into the air.
Our brains control how fast or slow our lungs draw in air. When we exercise or play, our brain tells our lungs to work faster. When we’re asleep or at rest, our lungs slow down.
Crazily enough, did you know your right and left lungs aren’t the same? The one on the left is divided into 2 lobes. The one on the right is divided into 3. The left one is slightly smaller, which allows room for your heart to exist. And, if bad things happen, a human can actually survive with one lung. This hampers extreme exercise, but a person with one lung can generally live a very normal life.
Breath. A life-giving function that many of us take for granted. Yet, it’s profound…isn’t it? You breathe in, and your lungs parse the good from the bad. You inhale life giving oxygen, and exhale carbon dioxide which is unneeded by the human body. Yet, your lungs need protected, as in a chain smoker doesn’t have healthy lungs. Nor does a coal miner. For the former, a large anti-smoking campaign has taken root. For the latter, sophisticated masks have been invented to help regulate the purity of the air a miner would breathe in.
Is it making sense? Do you see the parallels of breathing to a life well lived? On any given day, we’re faced with another entry point to our bodies. Not air…but just as life giving, or just as toxic. The people we surround ourselves with, the news we watch, the social media platforms we addict ourselves to, these are all intakes into our bodies, into our minds. If we allow these intakes to be from a life-giving and positive perspective, it’s like oxygen to our souls. If they are from an end-of-days and pessimistic place, our souls languish.
I’ve been there. I’ve allowed the gossip and conspiracies and pessimism and dysphoria to enter my mind. The results haven’t been pretty. It has wreaked havoc with my state of being and turned me into a person I’d rather not be. If left to its own devices, it’s caused unnecessary anxiety and has turned me against my own teammates, my family, and my friends.
Yet, there’s another option. There can be purity in our breath. We can choose to only allow in the good. We can choose who we hang out with. We can only allow positive things to enter. We can allow life-giving oxygen into our souls and our minds. We can choose to do good. We can live above the line. We can read a good book, think good thoughts, listen to good podcasts, and hang around good friends. We can treat others with dignity and respect. We can love them, even if we disagree with them. We can offer life giving encouragement to those around us. We can take in oxygen, and be oxygen to others.
This world is a crazy place. So much doom, so much worry, so much doubt, so much depression. But we can rise up. Rise above. We can breathe clearly. Our intake can be pure. We can mask out the bad. But it’s not easy. It’s a choice. A choice each one of us must make. A choice that must be repeated constantly. A choice as frequent as the very air we breathe. Moment my moment. Breath by breath.
Let us choose life.
Let us choose purity.
Let us choose joy.
Let us choose contentment.
No longer choked by the toxins of tragedy.
But rather transformed by the oxygen of optimism.
Moment by moment…
Breath by breath…
This is the air we breathe…