Breathe in. Notice a pause.
Breathe out. Notice.
Such a basic rhythm. Ever notice the urge to hold that inbreath? Keep it still? Remember it?
When I’m walking or meditating and a crow or mourning dove calls ⎼ or all the voices in my head go silent and I feel rooted where I am, so calm ⎼ sometimes I feel an urge to hold that moment. Stop everything. Or we’re in our car and hear the music we most love, we might try to extend the listening forever. We hear our best friend’s voice or hear the “I love you” we’ve been yearning for ⎼ or we smell the aroma of our favorite food or see a sunrise that shatters the dark, or have an insight ⎼ how do we hold that? Can we hold onto that? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
We want something pleasant, good, beautiful to last; but it doesn’t. We can feel so focused as we inhale. So alive. And then we breathe out and it’s gone. The urge to make a moment last ⎼ to turn a disappearing sight, sound, feeling into a permanent one ⎼ is something we all sometimes experience. But before we realize it, the moment has passed.
We want to feel young. We want our life to last. Then arthritis breathes us in. Pain breathes us in. Or we breathe in and dislike the feeling, the memory. Or we fear it.
Sometimes, we want the exhalation to last. We want to push away the inhale; but what we push away somehow always bounces back. Hate is one form the pushing away can take; denial, fear and pain are others. We can also breathe out and let it go, happily or not.
We live moment by moment. But if we try to study any moment by attempting to keep it still, then it’s gone. We can’t even find the moment because as soon as we notice it, it’s already passed. Or we‘ve lost it by trying to hold it. Like picking a flower to keep it always with us, and we thereby kill it. We breathe in; holding it can feel so calming, momentarily. Then we come to a point where we must let it go or we suffocate ourselves.
Daniel Kahneman, in his wonderful book Thinking Fast and Slow, talks about experiments showing that people prefer to have a good memory of an event over having the lived experience be wonderful. In one experiment, Kahneman and colleagues asked volunteers to endure three episodes of submerging their hands in freezing cold water. In the first, they put one hand in water that was painfully cold but not intolerable for 60 seconds. In the second, with the other hand, they repeated the experience of 60 seconds of painfully cold water. But this time, for an additional 30 seconds, the experimenter allowed some warmer water into the tub.
A few minutes after the two trials, the participants were given a choice of which experience would be repeated. 80% of the participants chose the second, despite it being longer. It was the end they remembered most clearly, which was only slightly less painful.
Likewise, he asks us to imagine we face an extremely painful operation during which we are conscious. However, we are promised an amnesia-inducing drug that will completely wipe out any memory of the pain. Most people, he conjectures, are fine with that. They consider what he calls the remembering self as more important than the experiencing self….
*To read the whole article, please go to the Good Men Project.