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When will God say breathe?

My recent excursion into the MRI tunnel still has me recalling the voice ‘from the outside’ saying..

“Hold your breath…” whhhiiiirrrrrrr, ratatatatatata…

“Breathe.”

Oh, it felt good to let go of that breath.

While I was waiting, I was totally focused on one thing: taking my next breath. Being the rule-following type, it did not occur to me to cheat or sneak in a breath while she wasn’t looking. I was gonna do it or die trying.

But this did bring to mind days gone past, (I’ve written a bit about it here) when we had a competition on the swim team for how far we could swim underwater. This was supposed to inspire us (pardon the pun) to push ourselves in training. To hold our breath a bit longer, because breathing slowed you down. The one who took the fewest breaths usually made it to the finish line first.

Well, there is a trick to this one of the older swimmers showed us. If you hyperventilate first, that is, if you take a lot of quick, shallow breaths, you can “blow off” carbon dioxide and trick your body into keeping quiet about that old breathing thing. Later, as a physiologist I learned and then taught students that this practice actually fools your brain’s internal breathing centers into thinking you don’t have to breathe yet. This is a bit of a dangerous practice. However, once you pass out, your body comes to your rescue and makes you breathe.

But today this has me wondering whether this isn’t often my approach to life. To hyperventilate, gasping the full volume of air because I can hold my breath longer. Does the force of my life silence my body’s signal to breathe? Is finishing first really worth it?

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