I was born utterly vulnerable, dependent and skill-less. And in the moment of my death, I will once again be vulnerable, dependent and my acquired life skills won’t change the outcome. The bookends to being human are profoundly mysterious and difficult to embrace. The first independent act we do is breathe on our own. The last independent act we do is release our last breath. What an extraordinary natural process within which we are invited to compose our great story in the time between our birth and death. Breath is foundational to life.
To be successfully alive, we have to win the battle of taking what we need from our mothers. Quite literally, we need to take the proteins from our mother to build the cells that create life. To be successful in our death, we lose the battle of staying alive. And somewhere in between these miracles of life and death, we ask some pretty fundamental questions and experience some powerful challenges that influence who we are.
This process is called life, filled with obstacles and challenges. It’s a process that we all have the privilege to learn from, be blessed by and make peace with somewhere in the heart of our souls.
What does birth and death have to do with overcoming our blocks, barriers, burdens or bondages? I believe the bookends of life help us frame the questions and wisdom gained to transform who we think we are in relation to the obstacle – for in every obstacle there is the path of life and paradoxically the path of death.
The Buddha taught the necessity of letting go of attachment. Jesus framed this same principle by inviting us to be in this world, but not of this world. Lao Tzu said when you let go of what you are, you become what you might be. This collective wisdom highlights a couple of key points for me in overcoming obstacles:
1. We need to become aware how we are mentally framing our story about the obstacle. Years ago in my seminary studies, a professor stated that until the church re-frames its conversation about the inclusion of LBGT people, it will remain polarized in this conversation, resulting only in conflict and division.
A light came on. Function follows form. The riverbanks shape the water flow. Poor ‘mental frames’ about these obstacles lead to poor questions and poor questions lead to worse solutions. Change the frame or form (of the obstacle) and often our perception of what we can do with the obstacle changes. Recently a client shared a concern she had sitting at the back of her head. It was an old pattern. I asked what happens when she relocates this concern in the back of her head and puts it in her buttocks. She did that and started to laugh. Changing the form it had in her body, released the power of this obstacle.
2. We need to release our emotional attachment to our ego identity in bondage to this obstacle and surrender to a greater wisdom within. Our ego seeks to control life and maintain the status quo. Yet, when life offers us some of its biggest challenges, the story and identity of who we are no longer serves. Releasing my ego identity, who I think I am, who I believe I am supposed to be, who I have practised being, the story I’ve been told about who I am and the one I secretly tell myself, is my biggest challenge.
For most of my life, our property was organized for hobby farming. The barn and shed were homes for pigs, chickens, ponies, a horse, calf, etc, for many years. After my father’s death, the barn transitioned to a chicken barn for almost 20 years. Following a short period of no function, the barn eventually became the Toonie Barn, a place to collect, store and re-purpose household items primarily for migrant workers, others with limited incomes, and the occasional seeker of the weird and wonderful for $2.00. But this too had to die away, leaving the barn empty and without function. We did use it as a training and play area for our dogs and their friends. For almost 50 years, this building had the same structure, but with changing function. However, last year a portion of the roof caved in. The structure now was dangerous. Great care and organization was required to take down these buildings.
The buildings were part of a story about who I was, but one which could no longer sustain me in my future. Like the barn, letting go of our emotional attachment to our identity constructs can often be difficult because it means emotionally letting go of the past. It means emotionally letting go of the old beliefs which bookend why we couldn’t participate in life in a certain way.
However, letting go of the buildings or the outdated ‘frame’ has allowed a whole new future to be possible, to be life-giving. Likewise, in becoming what I might be, I am no longer tied to the narrative of who I was and what was possible just as with the ‘frame’ of the property. I am now free to breathe into my life and what is possible in a whole new way, just as we are with our property.
Breath is foundational to all life. Obstacles are one part of life. We are given the opportunity to release who we have been and become who we might be through love, trust and surrender. Your breath frames your life. With your breath choose to release and re-frame your emotional attachments. Choose to live who you might be.