Definitions of Humor
Celebrating Changes


Barry Sultanoff, MD

Breaths come and breaths go. Tens of thousands of times, every day of your life, your breath changes its direction. The events of your life come and go, too. Nothing stays constant. Everything is changing.

The attitude that you choose to take toward this ever-changing nature of your life---how well you learn to let go of what was and move on with what is---has a huge impact on your health and well-being. It is a significant determinant of how long, and how well, you live.

Here's the choice you have: You can be frustrated by what you believe has been lost, and feel pained and sad about it. You can spend a lifetime grieving over an unsatisfactory childhood, a blown opportunity, or a relationship that went wrong. Or you can celebrate the unending gift that life offers---the gift of perpetual renewal, every breath of your life.

Imagine that, as you journey through life, you're carrying a wide-mouthed cup in your hand. All of life's experiences pour into this cup.....the "good" and the "bad", the anticipated and the unexpected, the shocking and the divinely sublime.

Your cup's been designed to easily contain all of this. There is room enough! But, gratefully, it has one important feature that saves you: It has no bottom!

Whatever you collect in your cup, you savor it---as it drops in for a moment---but you do not save it! Like a string of performing beads, each life-experience pauses, takes a bow, and then passes right on through. Like a thoughtful house guest, it only visits for a short while. It doesn't take up residence.

Here's a way to engage this healthy practice of letting go, by harmonizing with the rhythm of your breath:

  • Choose something that you've had a hard time letting go of---an old resentment or sorrow, a self-judgment or judgment of another, a "sticky" relationship---and make a choice to be free of it. Though it may have felt important enough in the past to hold onto---and carry along for the ride---remind yourself now that you're willing to release it.
  • Focus on your breathing, noticing the gentle ebb and flow of life-giving oxygen, in and out of your lungs. Sense the floor of the diaphragm beneath your lungs and allow it to soften, even as it continues to move up and down with each breath.

    Every day you have tens of thousands of opportunities to let this ever-changing quality of the breath teach you how to let go---as it instructs you in how to go with the flow and move on to whatever's next.

  • Ask this wise teacher to assist you now in helping you let go of something that you no longer have to carry. If you can, recall when it was that you took this item into your cup in the first place.
  • Now, let your cup be bottomless. Each time you breathe in, celebrate the feeling of clean, fresh air entering your lungs. And each time you breathe out, feel whatever it is that you no longer want, dropping right through the open floor beneath your lungs, out into empty space, where it can be recycled back into its elements...

You cannot hold onto what is past. It's time to move into the present.....into the eternal now. By celebrating change as an inevitable and delicious part of life, you will always have enough. Every moment will bring some new delight.

What a strange paradox:

By emptying yourself
of what you do not need
to hold onto.....

your bottomless cup
will always be full.

Editor's Note: This material is an edited version of a chapter from a forth coming book, Don't Hold Your Breath!....A Doctor's Guide to Healing Your Life Through Breathing by Barry Sultanoff, M.D. ©Barry Sultanoff, M.D. 1999. A CD Dances with Breath---Soulful Steps for a Peaceful Life including excerpts of this material is available.

  Barry Sultanoff, M.D. has a home-based private practice in Kensington, Maryland that emphasizes the integration of body, mind, and spirit. Though generally viewed as a psychiatrist, he has expanded the conventional definition of psychiatry to include environmental and transpersonal aspects. His love of beauty and the arts, and his study of Feng Shui, have helped shape a new direction in his practice, in which the healing impact of the setting itself is paramount. Barry is a Charter Member of the American Holistic Medical Association. He is an international speaker, avid amateur photographer, tango dancer, and yogi. You can contact him at (301) 942-9024 or about the CD Dances with Breath---Soulful Steps for a Peaceful Life, his first book Putting Out the Fire of Addiction--A Holistic Guide to Recovery, and other matters.

This article appeared as the Featured Article of the Week in the AHHA web site.

Humor Matters™

Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D.
Mirthologist and Clinical Psychologist
3972 Barranca Pkwy. Suite J-221
Irvine, CA 92606