Think of each breath.

In any given moment, as long as we are living, we are in the state of either exhaling or inhaling; natural breathing occurs without any sticks, stitches or catches.

Now think for a moment about the point of motion in between the two phases of breath, the point after you are done inhaling and begin to exhale, or the point when you are finished exhaling and begin to inhale.

Imagine that the breath itself were visible, and that you could see how it swirls as it is brought into the lungs. Do you see how that activity never ceases?

It continues to swirl from the action of the in-breath even as it is pushed gently out, churning like a white cloud.

It is good to visualize the breath in this way, to deepen our understanding that even something as normal as breath contains never-ending complexity-- to realize in fact that there is no limit to energy in the universe.

Breathing, though it seems to happen all by itself, is a muscular action-- there is a mechanism for it occurring. In this way it is true to say that breathing takes effort, just as personal development and growth take effort.

Personal growth is as natural, rewarding and simple as it is to take healthy breaths.

This metaphor can apply to personal growth in any aspect. Try to imagine life without breath. Go ahead, try. Not only is it not possible, from a certain standpoint it feels very uncomfortable! In fact, there is a deadly, suffocating feeling associated with not breathing.

Remember how you equated not breathing with not growing? Reconnect with this feeling of suffocation and associate it with going through life without growing.

The reason some of us go through life without making the continual conscious application of choice to grow is usually because we feel relatively comfortable with the situation as it stands. Oddly enough, we can find ourselves struggling to feel comfortable with situations that are remarkably painful. In fact, if we would just see things from a higher perspective, we would be forced to recognize pain for what it is.

My analogy for living a life obsessed with comfort (whether consciously or not) is like trying to live without breathing. Living comfortably, trying to cling to passive pleasures that come and go, is like trying to hold your breath and live in a state of suspension.

Whether the air you’re holding is the result of a deep breath or whether you began holding your breath after the process of exhalation, there’s always someplace better to go (like continuing to breathe and therefore continuing to live).

Holding your breath won’t get you there. Clinging to a moment of relaxed pleasure won’t make it stay. Does that mean there is no place for relaxation or pleasure in life? Of course not. Sometimes R&R is the best medicine for a person committed to growth through activity.

The pleasure of relaxation becomes an opportunity to grow in areas which are often underdeveloped in our society. Letting go of awareness to become attached to the transient comforts of life is a lousy bargain. No one has any guarantee that their comforts will last long, and even if they do, they all eventually pass for us.

But when we grow our character, we also develop our hearts and therefore our ability to create value in innumerable ways. Value, once created, continues well beyond perceived boundaries.

It doesn’t take long to find examples of actions that were taken by people who are long dead that continue to powerfully influence us today. Just as this is true, there are also actions that do not carry with them the signature of the doer that nonetheless continue to this day to add value.

Regarding value, let me ask you a question. Whenever someone does something good for you, do you feel like doing something good in return? Of course you do. So whenever you feel bored or anxious, rekindle your assurance in the potential impacts of personal development in any area. You never know who you may become a role model for.

It is certain that the world exists as it does today because many people took action to transform themselves – we are all inexorably linked, and very much more similar than we are different.

What we can do to improve ourselves impacts those we come in contact with in ways far beyond what we could ever know.

Assurance in our interconnectedness both alleviates self-concern and places emphasis behind our individual responsibility.

Recalling this deep assurance is as simple as taking mindful breaths.

Author's Bio: 

Stephen Lloyd Webber earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. His poems, short fiction, and essays have been published in numerous literary journals including Yellow Medicine Review, Free Verse and Black Magnolias. He has exhibited a musical installation in Oklahoma, several sculptures in New Mexico, and has given poetry readings as well as exhibited paintings in New Mexico and Italy. He is a teacher of poetry and composition at New Mexico State University and also a certified personal trainer and activist for Population Connection. 2010 will be his fourth summer spent in Italy.
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