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BREATHE?!  What does it really mean?

A colleague who lives in Hawaii recently shared this story with me.  There is a word in Hawaiian – Haole – that refers to people who are non-native to the Island.  However, the original origin of the word is rooted in the meaning “no breath” – Ha translating to breath of life and Ole meaning without.  It is said that when the Islands began to be inhabited by white people, the natives noted that they did not breathe.  The new people arriving did not breathe together or individually. Thus, the word for no breath came to be the same word for white people.

I find this word and story very intriguing, especially during this time when we are navigating a pandemic that targets the lungs, a vital organ in breath.  As many of you who have worked with me know, I cannot say enough about the power of breath.  When a client first begins working with me, he or she may be taken back with how much I begin our client/teacher relationship together focusing on breath alone.  Through my live surgery observations as well as cadaver studies, I have seen the intricate movement of breath and all the movement that happens as a result of the breath. And, through my many years of both coaching and teaching movement, I have seen how breath (or lack of) plays a vital role in one’s well-being.

If you look through dictionaries you will find many definitions for the word breath.  Two that I find to be most important are:

  • Air inhaled and exhaled in breathing

  • The vital principle or animating force within all living beings


Interestingly, you will find also find the same definition for the word spirit:

  • The vital principle or animating force within all living beings


As many poets, philosophers, healers, teachers, and great leaders have noted - breath is life and life is breath.  Breathing is part of both our awareness and our non-awareness.  We don’t have to think to breathe, yet if we don’t bring intentionality to our breath, we miss out on the great life-giving potential that breathing can provide.  Most are lousy breathers.  We sit hunkered in our chairs or cars.  We scurry about in our busy lives with our crowded minds and our over-zealous to do lists. All of this prevents full expression of our 'breath', both literally and figuratively.  When there is holding in the body allowing for little breath, neither our body nor our spirit can function well.  This leaves us in a very unhealthy state – physically and emotionally.

So here we are (many though certainly not all) with more quiet time on our hands than we ever imagined.  We finally have a chance to fully ‘breathe’ each moment, to tap in to the vital principle or animating force within all living beings; and, to find greater connection to our self, to others, to all of life…something that would serve us best if we did it all the time.

Take a moment now to breathe fully, taking deep breaths and noting how healthy your lungs are…right here, right now.  This moment is what we have.



©AnneLloydWillett   4/11/2020

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