Love, Breath, and Pollen Allergies

Original posted on my personal blog

I’m walking barefoot over a sticky, stained, suspiciously damp bathroom floor.

In these moments, I always strain on my toes and heels to get as little contact with the ground as possible. Is that normal? Or do people just take it?

I don’t take it. My whole being pulls itself upwards, straining to levitate to the toilet and back, but I’m just left stressed, rigid, and wobbling. It’s futile too. Is tip-toeing going to make a non-trivial difference in prancing through evaporated piss, shower run-off, and caked soap?

This is the opposite of letting go. This is distrust of your surroundings. You do not want the world to penetrate a single pore of your body.

The attitude serves a purpose. When marinating in grime it’s natural to close yourself off.

What isn’t natural is holding this attitude at all times. I do this. At varying intensities.

Doesn’t matter if I’m sitting on the couch scrolling through twitter, basking in the sun in beautiful meadows, part of me is always suspicious, not willing to opening up.

Why am I like this?

I blame pollen.

I suffered bad allergies as a kid. I was told evil “allergens” travel through the air and lodge themselves in my sinuses, causing the all-consuming sneezing, sore throats, and frenzied itching that tormented me through the night.

Imagine being told this. Nowhere is safe! I could get attacked in any location, at any time, just by breathing. I became suspicious of the air, constantly on guard. Deep breaths left me open to attack, so I inhaled meek and shallow with much tension.

Air carries life. You can call it oxygen or qi or prana, whatever it is, it’s important. By resisting air, I resisted the greatest gift of the universe.

It’s like someone baking me a decadent cake for no reason, purely out of love, and in return I scowl and ask for the nutrition facts, suspicious of the sugar content. It’s looking a gift horse in the mouth. And I suffered for it. By resisting air you resist life.

Breath affirms our position as nature’s dependents. We are constantly nourished by the universe. We cannot survive in a vacuum.

Air connects us to all things. I inhale what you exhale, what what the car exhausts, what the tree creates. As much as we think we like to think we’re self-reliant individual, dependent on no one and no thing, we are dead and useless in total separation.

In my quest to be more alive, I’ve had to change my relationship to breath.

A year ago at Ananda Ashram, a glowing hippie told me he “fell in love with his breath”. I finally get what he meant.

When I breathe consciously, in pranayama or moments of rest, I act like I’m graciously accepting a gift. I let the breath enter as it is and relax as it breath becomes part of me.

In this way, love arises. Because what is love? Absolute union. And why limit this union to people? You can love anything.

Take music. I go through phases with music. Sometimes my headphones stay on all day and all night. Other times I’m repulsed– every sound is irritating. Even my favorite songs are grating.

I used to think it was a “tolerance” thing. I just consumed too much sound and my ears and brain needed a break.

That might be part of it. But most of it, I’ve found, is the waning and waxing of resistance. Your ears, like your nostrils, are another gateway to existence beyond yourself.

Resistance creates suffering. Resistance is filtering raw experience through your own “likes” and “dislikes”. Every time Sicko Mode gets caught in the “dislike” filter you feel tension, you have to reject it from your mind, you have to close your ears.

Resistance to sound is a negative spiral. The more I get in my own head, the the more attached I get to my own inane monologue, and the more disturbed I get by external sounds. Doesn’t matter if it’s a baby crying or Beethoven, it’s all an interruption to my train of thought. And so, seeing music as a disturbance, I cut myself off to external music and my internal chatter gets uglier and more consuming.

Now I listen to music the same way I breathe. I forget my preferences. Especially if I lack control. If I’m at a party, what choice do I have over what song is playing? I will never be the “YO dude could I get on the aux real quick? i’m CRAVING some bangers” character, that is my deepest value. I can’t stop the speakers spitting and endless stream of ’21 21 21 21 21′. But I still have a choice. Stick to my “tastes” and cringe or melt into it and bob.

No song is really that bad. Just melt.

Published by Karthik Bala

trying hard to figure shit out

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