“What’s 1 thing you need to live?” asked my youngest boy. I thought for a moment – is there only 1 thing I need to live? Thinking back to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs I’ve just explored with my students this term, food, water, shelter, and clean air are but a few physiological needs identified in the first layer of the pyramid.
My students' answers brought some chuckles – some thought they needed their iPad, some needed a pet, others needed chocolate.
So if it’s just one thing that we need to live, what would it be? “Breathing,” answered my boy plainly, while demonstrating breathing then not breathing, adding very matter-of-factly, “If we don’t breathe, we die.”
Breathing is vital for us yet something we do so normally without even being conscious of it. We breathe without being told. We take breaths all throughout the day and we don’t stop taking breaths.
The moment we do stop taking regular breaths, we become light headed or for some, we become hot headed. When the brain does not have enough oxygen, our body stops functioning at its optimum. We lose focus and our head starts spinning.
Some situations make us realised that we need to breathe more than other situations. When we’re in a swimming pool with our head under water, we are made more aware that we need to breathe to stay alive.
When there’s a fire, and there’s smoke all around, we become more aware that we not only need to breathe, but we need to breathe clean air. We realise that what we inhale makes a difference to our lives – it either causes us our life, or keeps us alive. Carbon monoxide kills us, but oxygen keeps us alive.
Our choice of what we knowingly or unknowingly breathe in keeps us either alive or kills us spiritually. If are always surrounded by fire, we are consuming lots of smoke whether we want to inhale smoke or not. What we surround ourselves with, is what we are breathing in.
Our spiritual oxygen
What we spend all our time on is technically what we are breathing in. Oftentimes, we end up breathing in a lot of different things.
Work, entertainment, hobbies, travels, which are never bad in itself can be like fire to us, though it often makes us warm and fuzzy, when out of control (over-indulgence on our part) beckons a thick smoke which disorientates us.
Just like we need to breathe in oxygen all the time, God is someone we need all the time. The moment we accept God as our creator, saviour and lord, is when we begin to come alive spiritually. However, we need to remember that breathing is not a one off action, but a continuous act.
God is our spiritual oxygen. Without God, though we are alive physically, spiritually we are dead. He is not our one stop convenient store where we casually drop by to get what we want but our constant need just like breathing.
Instead of something separate and foreign, God’s word, God’s love, His teaching and His perfect plans for us should be an integrated part of our lives like breathing.
Interestingly, we breathe not only so we get sufficient oxygen but also so that we can get rid of unnecessary waste in our body. When we breathe, we inhale and also exhale. The latter is equally as important as the former. Exhaling allows our body to release gas waste like carbon dioxide that was produced in our body.
Exhaling properly expels toxins in our body while also frees up space for us to breathe in more oxygen. If we do not exhale properly, there won’t be room for fresh oxygen to enter our body.
There will always be gas waste produced when our muscles work and when our digestive system is churning all our food intake, just like there will always be sin in our lives when we are alive and doing things. The important thing however, is to know how to cleanse ourselves.
Breathing automatically cleanses our body when we exhale. We can learn a lot from this unique mechanism that keeps us alive. If our physical body needs continuous cleansing, we can be sure that our spiritual body needs continuous cleansing too.
Seeking forgiveness for sins should be engrained into our daily lives just like exhaling is to us and it needs to be done thoroughly so we make room for God daily.
During a recent expo, I was introduced to the Rock and Water programme which is a mindfulness programme focusing on breathing. One of the activities we did was mind blowing as it reinforced the need for exhaling well by demonstrating the vast difference in strength when a person was exhaling versus inhaling.
When someone was pushed when one was inhaling, one easily tumbled; however, when the same person was exhaling, they were more grounded so it was easier to stand firm instead of being pushed. It was such an eye-opener to experience how exhaling properly makes a difference in our lives.
While breathing is undeniably the number one need to stay alive, we all know that we need a lot more than just breathing. Constant intake of water and healthy food as well as a shelter are amongst others that we need on a daily basis to stay alive.
The main difference is that you breathe naturally without needing to think about it but all the other needs are things you think and consider about. This shows how fundamental breathing is compared to the other needs which also sometimes makes it easily taken for granted.
Let’s be more aware of what’s the most important need in our lives and start breathing well both physically and spiritually.
Esther Koh is a primary school teacher living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html