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Breathing Under Water

August 19, 2011

Breathing Under Water

My dear friend recently told me that she had had a dream that she was under water swimming, and she was able to breathe. No snorkeling gear, no scuba tanks, not even gillyweed (for you Harry Potter fans), she was simply able to breathe under water. She was swimming around with ease and freedom, enjoying the fish, coral, ocean plants and the water itself. She was feeling completely joyful and at peace. I told her I have had dreams like this myself.

The context in which she told me this dream, however, is what was most interesting. Her days are filled with challenges right now, difficult to overcome. While it isn’t as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel, each day brings the question of when it will end, and how will she manage in the meantime. She asked me for guidance. She asked me for insight; she asked me for help.

I thought how fascinating it was that in the midst of trials that she can’t see or breathe through, that she had a dream about breathing under water, and I pointed this out to her. She was confused. I told her, “Your answer is simple. You must breathe under water.”

Each of us has challenges in life that sometimes seem insurmountable. The number of people who are facing financial difficulties due to loss of their job or business, cuts in wages or hours, or simply due to lack of clientele is staggering. Others of us have people we love who are facing chronic or even fatal illness. Still others are in relationships – whether business or personal – that demand all they have and seem to be shy on return. And you know as well as I do that the list of crises and issues we deal with goes on. What is the answer? It was in my friend’s dream: breathe under water.

What this means to me is that we have the capacity to survive, and even thrive and rejoice, in situations that seem as foreign to us as living under water without any breathing apparatus. Inside of our chemistry is the wisdom to flow under even the most difficult of circumstances. At first blush this may sound preposterous, but if you think about it, there are individuals who walk with difficulty in their lives and maintain their aplomb and even grace, just as there are those who feel tackled by their circumstances. Perhaps they have access to a Zen practice that helps them to keep their balance. Perhaps they are recognizing that the tools they use on a daily basis to survive simply won’t be effective in the current circumstances, and so they reach within for their inner gills, if you will, and find a way of approaching the situation that is not their norm.

Maybe the effective response calls for creativity. Maybe it calls for faith in something we can’t see. Maybe it calls for a deep reach into the reservoir of our human capacity. In any case, our human potential and ability are much greater than we often realize and give ourselves credit for. If we can step out of the paradigm that is our norm, we may find that we, too, can find ways to respond to the limitations and issues that face us that seem impossible to transcend, and find in them the same freedom we would feel if we were breathing, naturally and easily, gorgeously thriving, under water.

Robin Damsky

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