Wednesday, April 6, 2011

5 Insights into Inspiration

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

You cannot breathe out what you did not breathe in. Each breath is a gift given to each of us that we cannot retain. It is the gift of life itself.

"Inspire" literally means, "to breathe in or onto". You cannot inspire others until someone or something inspires you. To the extent that someone is inspired he or she will naturally inspire others. Inspiration is a gift.

Since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2006, I find myself continually seeking inspiration. Who does not want inspiration? And who does not want to be inspiring?

But how do we live an inspired and inspiring life? Just as a breath disappears in a moment, it may also be true that any insights into inspiration are equally fleeting. But, for what it is worth, here are my thoughts.

1. Like the air we breathe, inspiration is all around us. Like taking a deep breath of crisp, clean, mountain air, inspiration may be good. Or like inhaling brown, polluted smog, it may be bad. There is no noticeable shortage of either. Inspiration may be found in the vastness of nature or isolated in the end of the drug-dripping needle.  Your choice.
2. If we value our ability to breathe, we need to be discriminating about what we breathe. There are plenty of toxic fumes that can prove lethal. In fact, my own Parkinson's disease may have resulted in part from growing up in pesticide-protected apple orchards. Ignoring where we get our inspiration can prove just as toxic.

3. Deep breathing is healthy. It feeds every cell in your body, lowers your heart rate and decreases stress. It releases nature’s built-in painkillers, endorphins, into your body. It exercises your body and clears your mind. Inspiration, too, has seemingly supernatural potential. It enlivens us and gives us perspective. It feeds our souls.

4. Breathing is a continual process. Our bodies were built to rely upon it. But rarely do we actually recognize its presence and importance. Likewise, although our spirits long for inspiration, we often ignore its sources. We take it for granted, settling for ignorance, diversions, entertainment and the unimportant. Without inspiration we live in dissonance, knowing we are missing something vital, yet dashing on to the next distraction or drama.

5. The more you breathe in, the more you breathe out. It is a cycle. And so it is with inspiration. Whether good or bad, that which has been inhaled will be exhaled. While it is generally true that, "we are what we eat", it is also accurate to say that we only inspire others as we ourselves are inspired.

Listen, wait, read, and watch attentively. All the while discern the best sources from which to breathe deeply. Be prepared to be delighted with the discoveries you make.

For me, I am often inspired by the courage of others who fight their own adversities and share with me their stories of wars, both won or lost.  Whether lost in the subtlety of a sunset, or confounded by the complexity of the human mind, or overwhelmed in the wisdom of the elderly or the unvarnished truth of a child's words, let us seek inspiration daily so that we may become inspire others. To fail is to expire before our time.

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