The essence of life will not be ignored. We can only pretend for so long that we aren't turning bright red and then purple as we fight the urge to inhale. Even the most skilled come up either gasping or sinking into black, only to be brought back by the unconscious brain begging for air. Breath is a reminder of our constant need—
We spend our lives releasing things into the world—words, ideas, actions—which is then made possible again by receiving more air that is in turn meant to be transformed and given back to our world.
In high school I was not a skilled soccer player—but I did know how to yell gooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllll for an impressive length of time. It is a fair representation of my tendency to create, produce, work, and plan until I am forcing out the deepest corners of my lungs, straining my core to maintain the pace until I nearly pass out. It is a fun trick in high school—it is a terrible way to live.
It is hard to breath in our culture. We have so many excuses handed to us on a silver platter by our employers, church, friends, and ourselves—things that we pretend are far more important than taking in the oxygen necessary to make it through even the next five minutes. And so our relationships, our faith, our work, and well being are starved enough that by mercy some of us are incapacitated by burnout that gives us no choice but to start breathing again.
But the smart ones pay attention to their breath.