How to Breathe Underwater /or/ Am I Fully Alive Yet?
I must have come from some planet where the humanoids live underwater — whether one or a thousand lifetimes ago. If I could choose now, that would be my superpower: to have gills through which to breathe below sea level.
I used to have dreams that I was walking on the bottom of the ocean, and I would look around at all the creatures swimming about. Now I want to learn to free drive; to increase the oxygen in my body until I can hold my breath for 4 minutes and swim and swim and swim.
I want to be fully submerged, mindless, and moving with the tide. Unafraid of my fellow wildlife. I would learn to scuba dive, but I don’t want anything to weigh me down in the space where I feel most free. Skin & water, inside and out. Salt, creating the perfect buoyancy. I see me there; I see me released, open, untethered, unbothered, and in absolute awe.
I hold space for this vision in my left armpit; that’s where it resides, always ready to be appreciated when I need to appreciate it. My hair holds it in place so it never slips out and onto the concrete. My hips, my feet, my body knows when I’ve too long walked on man-made slabs, and they ache.
This, I’ve learned, is the wisdom of my body sending me messages, telling me of my needs. My body, my mind, my soul, they do not send me on meaningless journeys; they are communicating and trying to wake me from the sleep of humanness. My heart has its own agenda, one that sometimes conflicts with them all. But it’s also the organ holding me to the Earth; without it, I’m certain gravity would stop working and I would drift through the atmosphere.
A heavy heart is not always a bad thing; it’s a teacher that asks only questions without answers. The body knows its needs; the mind knows its wants; the soul knows its path; but the heart couldn’t give a damn. The heart needs and wants and knows a million different feelings all at once and refuses to give up on any of them.
This is a strange blessing; one that hurts but one I would not be living alive without. It is when we beat our hearts senseless, quite literally sense-less, that we reek havoc on the world and refuse to love with action.
That is how we forget to draw a circle of compassion around the entire world and all of its sentient beings. And it is easy to do, because it is hard to hurt, it is hard to feel, it is easy to forget, and even easier to be cold.
I am not exempt from this; I think none of us are. For we have all been given a hurt too large to process and so put it in a box and stuff it under our skin. Who can blame us for not wanting to unpack that box, but we must. We must. For if we don’t, we will wake up one day as someone we are not and never wanted to be.
If we are lucky, something comes along and cracks our box, and if we are even more lucky, that crack becomes a wedge, becomes a hole where all of our ugly bits spill out and onto the floor where we can see them. And if we are even more lucky than that, we take the time to sort through our ugly bits instead of finding a new, bigger, more impenetrable box to stuff under our skin and call it thick.
This is why death exists: to release the water from our skin and let our being breathe without a body to weigh us down in the space where we feel most free. My life is a calling to this freedom, a prototype in existing between worlds. I know it can be done; I have glimpsed it on a morning when the sunrise felt like a lightswitch. There, I was fully submerged, mindless, and unmoved by the tides of life. I remember being untethered, unbothered, and in absolute awe. It is a discovery two thousand lifetimes in the making.
Soul knows we have forever; body knows we only have today; mind is a time traveler, and heart is a beautifully stubborn fool who resides in all beings, weaving strings between and plucking them like a rebel violinist.
For much of my life, I barely heard my soul; I hated my body; I was at war with my mind, and I ignored my heart. But heart is a strong muscle that never stops until retiring.
And so it was my heart that led me to compassion for my body, and it was body who began writing a treaty with mind, and it was mind who when at peace could clearly hear soul. So you see, what good is a life if we never let heart lead the way?
The not-so-funny thing about pain of the emotional variety is that it feels as though it could swallow us whole yet has no mouth. It is the shark without teeth, lurking in our depths; and we try to walk on water in order to avoid it. It’s useless of course, the attempt. But we waste a lot of time and energy and love trying to protect ourselves anyway.
This is why I say, face what you are running from whatever it may be. Do not berate yourself should you scream and kick and cry as you do; face it all the same. For this sort of torment loses its power when seen for what it is: but a shadow on the wall of a cave we were too afraid to leave.
Life holds a great deal of pain and joy; we are not always in control of how much we receive or if we get far more than our fair share. Yet it is our responsibility nonetheless to impose the purpose of our being upon the open ocean of our water drop. When your skin releases its water and you become what everything is, there will be peace. Until that day, may you cause poseidon to tremor at mere mention of your name.
*originally published on conpoet.com