3/2/14

How to Live Without Breathing

Breathing is something so natural and so vital that most humans start doing it without any kind of prompting directly after birth. It's not something you learn, but it is something you can learn to improve. It's not good or bad in itself, but becomes either one depending on what you inhale. For the most part, a successful human life is lived by inhaling a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen, with a few other gases for good measure, and exhaling carbon dioxide. All of this you probably already know. But what you probably don't know is that it's possible to live without breathing. I'm Sun Mcleod, and this is my story.

I come from a pretty peculiar family. My mother and father both made a living as yoga instructors. As you can probably tell by my name, they were deep into the hippy scene. Growing up was a mixture of Eastern spirituality and Western culture. When we woke up every morning, the daily routine was brush teeth, meditate, breathing exercises, breakfast. And it was during these breathing exercises that I learned of my talent.

Of course, breathing exercises are supposed to be about actual breathing, but I was a little rebel in my day. Hippies are known for their rebellion, I guess, so how do you rebel against hippies? You take regular showers, you only eat meat, you get a job at a young age, and you hold your breath during breathing exercises. These days I smell nice, I've expanded my pallet, I have a nice savings built up, and I can live without breathing.

So, here's how you do it. Bear in mind, not everyone will be able to do this, and even if you can, you won't get it on your first shot. It involves absorbing the oxygen out of the air through the pores of your skin. But that's only one part of breathing, right? We also have to get rid of carbon dioxide. That's tricky. But the really tricky part is convincing your brain that you're going to go without moving your lungs for a while. It takes practice and mental discipline, but it can be done.

Over time, our brains develop neural pathways that act as a sort of map for neurons, which carry instructions for the body, to follow so you can do these actions without thinking.  There's a pathway for moving muscles, there's a pathway for walking, there's a pathway for breathing. The more you do a thing, the deeper the pathway gets, and the more difficult it is to change. This is how habits form, this is how we learn things, this is, for the most part, how we survive. Our brains are particularly malleable as children; the pathways easier to lay. Walking, for example, can become as natural as breathing because we learn it as a child. Our views on life, religion, and the universe, as taught to us by our parents, dig deep trenches into our brain that make these ideas just as certain as our next breath. Walking, breathing, religion, philosophy: to the brain, they're all the same. With varying degrees of malleability.

When I first went without breathing, it was an experimental stage born out of a certain kind of passive aggressive rebellion. What you don't immediately realize at this stage is that you need to exhale in order to form words. I found myself reserving a lung full of air just to speak, but after a while, as I resolved to purge all air, I learned to communicate through a text-to-speech phone app. Of course, my friends all thought it was weird, but I felt like I was making a statement, even if no one else heard it. In a sense, I owe my exceptional phone typing skills to life without breath!

Reflecting on this lifestyle, however, I can note a few drawbacks. It alienated some of my friends. I can remember some of them saying that I wasn't acting naturally. I became more sedentary; I was unable to work as much as I could while breathing. After a while, the lower influx of oxygen to my brain made me depressed and lonely. Although there were a few times where I was given to laughter, and this is the one thing I was unable to control.

There are many different forms and senses of humor, but one thing is constant: when you laugh, you breathe. There's something inescapable about it. Your face tightens, your muscles tense, and your lungs fill with air, to be expelled in a roar of joviality. Even if it's just a little hiss of a laugh, you're still taking in oxygen. I found that when I laughed while living without breathing that I felt more alive and vibrant. This could be just because of the good mood it put me in... but I suspect it had a lot to do with the air itself. The old friend from my youth returning after a long vacation.

In the end, I decided not to live entirely without breathing. There was no real point. It's just a different state of being that brought just as much casualty as benefit. I stress to you, though, that your body type may not allow for it. Try some breathing exercises first, and then decide for yourself whether you can feel the oxygen seep through your pores. You can learn a lot about yourself by living without breathing, but, in the end, breathing is your natural state of being. You should enjoy it, and just be who are you are.