Many, many moons ago I began to play the clarinet. It wasn't my first choice. I really wanted to play the flute. But the clarinet grew on me. I got good quickly and within a year was the best in my class. My mom and dad invested in private lessons for me as they recognized I possessed musical talent. Soon I learned the breath was key to transforming from a good clarinet player to a damn good clarinet player. A full breath in ... never raise the shoulders but instead fill the lungs completely such that the belly expands ... engage the diaphragm ... a full breath out. Being an eager and willing student, using my breath fully both while playing my clarinet and throughout the day became second nature to me.
And oh, could I play a ballad.
My breath and my clarinet were my favorite companions during my teenager years - years characterized by angst, anger, sadness and depression. My playing helped me express what I could not with words. The feelings I readily stuffed deep within me came out as beautiful music.
In my early twenties I gave up the clarinet. In the process, I also forgot what I had learned about the breath. While in Bolinas a few weeks ago, we talked about the breath quite a bit. And then we practiced breathing. Not since my childhood have I done this. Now, just as then, I found myself relaxing. And the mind chatter quieted to a hushed, unhurried whisper.
Slow breath in, slow breath out. Lovely. With me always.
If only I can remember this.
This featured author was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2007. She loves animals, gardening, reading and her dear friends and family, especially her daughter. She is proud to be a recent alumni of both San Jose State University (December 2008) and the Commonweal Cancer Help Program in Bolinas, California.