This post is both a reflection of a spontaneous thought and conversations with friends and a summary of an important philosophy in my life.
Pneuma is an ancient Greek word for breath. It is the form of circulating air necessary for the systemic functioning of vital organs and the material that sustains consciousness in a body.
In order to live life well, I believe we must learn to control our pneuma. It is not just the natural state of respiration that I draw a reference to, but I refer to the entirety of our being. (Body, soul and spirit). He who masters his breath, controls his destiny.
The divinity of our breath
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
As what the Bible states, that we, humans are born out of breath. It was the breath of God that turned us from mere dust into a living being. On a deeper level, it is the breath that is within us that makes us human and gives us our living soul.
It is also vital to consider that it is this breath that bestows upon us, spirituality. A privilege denied to animals beneath us. It is this breath that allowed for the domination of humankind over the animals that roam the Earth.
Because as what the previous verses posit, other living things were made out of a commandment, words uttered by God. Their very existence was just a matter of words. However, for humans, we were given an intimate relationship with God from the onset. We were molded from dust by the hand of God, and our very breath is derived from the breath of God.
Hence, from biblical references (no coincidence), we establish that in its essence, we are different from animals because of our very breath.
The power of our breath
I now move on to the power of our breath. In everything that we seek to accomplish, the breath is a key building block of it. In the function of our survival, it is the breath that give us power. Our inborn ability to respire, to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide is what keeps us alive. The oxygen that is carried by our blood that runs through our entire body, providing our organs with the “fuel” to function. Our breath empowers our brain to think, our legs to run and our stomach to digest (the inner glutton manifests itself here haha). Without our breathing, we will basically die in three minutes (not to mention, that you lose consciousness in a matter of moments). Thus, we can see that it is our breath is our driving force in life (albeit in a subconscious manner).
Likewise, be it in any kind of sports/ physical activities that you participate in. Everything boils down to your breath. If you fail to master your breath, you will be likely to falter in your sport. Consider this analogy, playing basketball. You have been running up and down the court the entire time and finally the ball is in your hands. But because you are not physically conditioned, you are completely gassed out and you ran out of breath the ball you shoot will poor in its release and you will most likely completely miss the mark.
Similarly in performance, be it dance,singing, playing an instrument or even drama, breath is of utmost importance. (an insight I gained from a friend, in a lunch conversation) However for the sake of being concise, I will write in the context of music. My friend said that if she was a music teacher, the first thing she would teach is how to breathe. This completely makes sense, your instruments can vary from a piano to a bagpipe, breath is essential. If you are unable to control your breathing, the music played is not going to be melodic but haphazard instead. I recall going for Experience Yale NUS where I watched a bagpipe performance, as I was indulging in the melody of it, I watched the performer’s breathing. It was well-calibrated, every inhalation and exhalation was rhythmic, completely in sync with the music he played with his bagpipe. Only when one masters his breath, he is capable of harmony with both his self and instrument.
Lastly, even in being a soldier (something I really enjoy, in my time of national service). I realized that breathing is extremely important in marksmanship. When you fire a round, your breathing technique needs to be well-calibrated. If you hold your breath in for too long, you tense yourself and your hands would start to quiver, resulting in an off-balance shot. Likewise, if you exhale at the time you squeeze the trigger, the round will most likely be misaligned as the weapon is most likely to dip from the point of aim. The ideal is to squeeze the trigger when you have just exhaled, so that the shot will go off as you intend it to go from your aim. Hence, it is true that just as your aim is important in your shot, so is your breath.
Conclusion of Pneuma.
In conclusion, I would like to list out my reflections on the lessons I have learnt.
- It is important to breathe.
In Singapore, we are a performance driven society, where the life we live is so high in tempo and stress, the word “rest” is considered a taboo or even a sin. What I suggest is to go against the grind, it is of utmost importance, we learn to breathe. We need to take the conscious step to make time for ourselves to breathe. In breathing, we can take the time to inhale and absorb the nature, the goodness that we have around us and be thankful in it. And at the same time to exhale, is for us to give ourselves a state of relaxation, a peace of mind so that we can perform. Performance comes hand in hand with breathing. If there is anything we can conclude, if we do not know how to breathe well, we will most likely perform poorly.
- Breathing is a conscious habit that we have to train ourselves in.
As Singaporeans, we have a tendency to keep on working. We are always trying to push ourselves forward. And just like physical training and performance, breathing techniques needs to be consciously trained. One good way to do this is when trying out new things or even carrying out tasks, always take a look at yourself and ask “How am I breathing?”. If you are not breathing right, then its perhaps time for some self-reflection.With that, I end this post with a quote : “The source of all our strength originates from our breath. ” (You can totally quote me on this)
P.S :This is something I watched on Youtube a few months back, that really helped broaden my perspectives.