Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | March 22, 2011

Breathing and the Sea

We usually don’t think about our breathing. I know I don’t. Only if I’m sick, when my nose is stuffed with concrete, or I’m coughing and wheezing. Then I notice every breath. Other than that, breathing just happens.

I don’t really think about anyone else’s breathing either. Only when I’m counting a respiratory rate or listening to lungs, or when a patient is having a respiratory issue; otherwise, breathing just happens.

Day in, day out; hour by hour and minute by minute, anywhere from twelve to thirty times. It varies, of course; quiet and even when sleeping quietly, rapid and rasping when running in terror; ragged with gasps in the throes of orgasm. Breathing happens whether we’re paying attention to it or not.

I sat on the beach today watching the Caribbean sea. The sun was warm but the sky was filled with dozens of fluffy clouds, like a handful of cotton balls carelessly tossed onto blue construction paper. The breeze was steadily brisk, blowing whitecaps onto the choppy surf.

I sat by myself on a towel at the top of the steep-sloped beach, just above the furthest reach of the wash, DDS several rows back on a chaise under an umbrella. Families played; couples walked by; teens dragged boogie boards. That’s not what I was watching.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the sea. It was the waves; they were hypnotic.

They just kept coming and coming and coming. One after another; all different directions, varying heights; changing patterns of spray up the beach. But they never stopped. There was no break; no pause. Over and over: the swell; the crest, the crash of the breakers; the wash up the slope; the rush back; all just in time for the next.

Over and over.

I felt my mind empty as I watched. No thoughts of tsunamis on the other side of the world; no worries about unmet prescription requests; no concerns about where the cats might have barfed. All those tragedies were still happening, but for a while — I don’t even know for sure how long — they weren’t my concern. No thoughts about what needed to happen next in the current book; no worries about Dinosaur book sales; no concerns about what the beta readers were thinking about the last novel. I wasn’t thinking about anything.

Not even about my breathing.

It occurred to me that the waves were like breathing. There were there before I came down to the beach this morning, and they’d still be coming ashore after I’d gone back up to the pool. They kept coming ashore; minute by minute, hour by hour, millennium by millennium. whether or not I nor anyone else was there to watch. The rhythm varied of course; winds, tides, weather all left their mark. But the waves never stopped.

My mind was completely empty, and it felt good.

Eventually I came back up the beach, found DDS, made my way back to the pool area, tracked down lunch. Gradually I started thinking again; granted it was mainly about which color umbrella drink I wanted, and whether to take a dip in the wave pool or the Jacuzzi. But I still have the memory of that interlude at the edge of the sea, with nothing but the waves, and breathing. In, then out again. Not having to think about it; just happening.

It’s nice to know that even back in the world of worries and thoughts and concerns, things happen without having to think about them.

Things like breathing, and the sea; which will still be here, even when I’m not.




  1. I didn’t know you were on vacation. Enjoy!

  2. Hope you are having an awesome time.

  3. Check out this book – great for wavewatching and meditating

  4. The first thought that comes to mind when it comes to breathing is how I can’t sleep close to someone else, even same bed as a spouse sometimes. I breathe in and out really slow and deep when I’m trying to trick myself to sleep. But this is impossible if I’m next to someone cause for some reason I want to breathe like they do. And once I catch myself doing it, I can’t stop! Even when I was little and snick into my moms bed when dad was gone.

    It’s like walking instep with people next to me or holding a bag in the same hand as my friend. The military lifestyle has really done quite a number on me and it’s even affected my breathing it seems!

  5. Why is it that when I breath my stomach goes in and out, but when my friend breaths his chest goes up and down? Kind to hard to explain. I tried breathing the way he does and it doesn’t feel right… he tried breathing like me and that didn’t feel right to him either? What gives?

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