My Page: Jason Mraz ‘Inspiration’
You are inspiring.
The definition of inspire is: to breathe life into. So if you’re reading this right now, then you are inspiring.
Let’s take a deep breath together. Do it right now as you’re reading this—a nice long, thoughtful breath. I’ll take one, too. Inhale through the nose… Hold it at the top for just a second… Then exhale. Do you feel a slight cooling in your chest? Does breathing out release any unwanted muscle tension? Did you follow it with another big breath? Did you yawn? What is this all about?
For me, breathing feels like the ocean crashing and sliding up on the sand. They are both similarly timed waves of energy lapping on invisible land. Some of it is absorbed by the sand; most of it pulls back and retreats to form the next wave. Air is to a human as water is to a fish. We are so deep in it, we don’t see what we’re swimming in.
Let’s take another deep breath together. Inhale—you know how this works. I feel the need to emphasize the word inhale so that you won’t skip over it in an effort to read quickly. Trust me, this is going nowhere. Yes, nowhere because there is nowhere to get. Only here—just now, this now.
Let’s go deeper.
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Let’s take a deep breath together—tomorrow. I don’t mean that you should put down this article and wait until tomorrow to breathe; I mean right now, let’s try to take a deep breath together tomorrow. Any luck? Of course not. Now, let’s take a deep breath together yesterday. That’s silly, of course, because we can only breathe right now. (Note to self: Remember this time-traveling breathing challenge when you are worried about something that hasn’t happened yet or when you are swimming in some regret of the past. When you are lost, take a deep, thoughtful breath and return to the now moment, really fast.)
This “now moment”—this solitary breath—is where all of life happens. In fact, all of life is but a sequence of nows, a sequence of breaths. Some nows are better than others; most I’ll never remember and many I’ll never forget. Which leads me to the conclusion that all we’re really here on Earth to do is to breathe in and out. The rest is just entertainment and snacks. Breathing is the first thing we do when we’re born. (Then we poop. That’s to remind us: It’s going to be messy sometimes. And there’s gonna be a lot of cleaning up to do—and a lot of looking after each other to do.) We continue breathing until our last breath, when we literally expire, breathing life out one final time.
According to internet math, when I’m chilling, I breathe anywhere from 17,000 to 30,000 times a day. This can increase to 50,000 times a day when I’m active. How many of those breaths will I remember? Not that many, comparatively. But I do remember the moments when I’ve consciously asked us to take a deep breath together. I do remember singing songs, which, to me, is the highest form of breathing consciously.
The moment I stop breathing is the moment I start suffering. That’s a given. But the same can be said about the moment I forget I’m breathing. That’s the moment I start to feel anxiety, pain and stress. Have you ever had a panic attack—or seen someone have a panic attack? The advice typically given is: Take a deep breath! This is to let life back into the body and bring awareness back to the most essential part of living: breathing in and out.
Being hear now.
When I’m deep in a song, listening or performing, I can’t be in the third verse while I’m still in the first verse. There’s a set rhythm and tone and sequence of nows that unfold. The act of singing requires knowing when and how to take that next breath in order to control the exhale needed for a long phrase or set of lyrics. Singing is like being able to control the tides of your ocean. You have to breathe consciously to sing. You have to be woke. Consider also that the act of speaking is simply words and intentions being carved out of these same controlled exhales, as if all of modern creation is just a bunch of people surfing on sound waves. And the beaches are crowded.
But let’s also acknowledge that the listener or reader is just as important as the speaker, singer or noisemaker. Following along with lyrics, words or even a film, gives us a path to walk, a pace to keep up with, a pattern to breathe with. And when the artist or creator carves out something beautiful, surprising, humorous or authentic, it causes the observer to gasp in astonishment—to laugh and cry, which are both just different ways to take a deep breath. We literally get inspiration.
It takes practice. Without a practice of some kind, I’d forget that I’m a descendant of the Big Bang; I’d forget that I’m a powerful creative being. I’d be bouncing all over the room, even risking telling myself I’m bored. Training myself to breathe consciously helps me cultivate more awareness, thus enjoying more precious, fleeting now moments. I learned this from Yoga, where the general purpose is to stay focused on your breath while simultaneously ignoring the embarrassment of twisting your body into different postures. It’s hardly about the postures; it’s all about the breathing. If you can stay focused on the breath, you can beat the mind at its own game. Music is also a form of Yoga. It’s a dance of breaths— carefully choreographed and consciously lived—helping you to ignore the awkwardness of being onstage. This writing practice is another Yoga; a strung-together sequence of thoughts, speech, actions and attitudes, giving my life purpose, shaping the experience into something more—inspiration.
Let’s all take another deep breath together. We get a limited number of these sweet breaths. That sucks. And it sucks that we don’t know what that number is. That’s the root of all suffering. So try not to think about it. Instead, try to catch as many breaths— as many new now moments— as you can. Live an inspiring life—the end result will be breathtaking.
Jason Mraz released Look for the Good in June via Interrabang/ BMG. The album, which explores the Grammy-winning artist’s love of reggae, was produced by Easy Star Records founder Michael Goldwasser.