This prompt baffled me. What exactly is “in the air?” It made me remember the phrase “there’s magic in the air.” Then, I found other phrases. “There’s a rumor in the air.” “There’s something in the air.” We build castles “in the air.” There is “spring/love in the air.” I looked at all these idioms for a while and sat back. What does this phrase mean to me in 2016? The sun outside was harsh and blinding even at 10AM in the morning. I move my hands in circles and catch nothing. Is that in the air? I remember this book I read earlier this year. A memoir called “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Paul Kalanithi. I wasn’t overly enamored by the book, even though its poignancy was beautiful. But it is the title that drew me in and made me recollect the year that has been.
When Breath Becomes Air. Nothing captures that phrase more than my struggles and battles with meditation this year. At a Vipassana course earlier this year, I learnt everything I could about the breath. Live in the breath. Surrender to the breath. Focus on the breath. Let the breath flow through. Let the breath flow out. Observe it. Feel the breath. It was just air. Just air passing through your nostrils and out. Concentrate on the tip of your nostrils, I was advised. I tried. I could feel the gentle shimmer of air, resting a while on my upper lip. That was all I could feel. Then, it was gone. Was this the breath? Was this what we fight so hard all our lives for? It’s ironic that all our life we rarely pay attention to the breath, except when it ceases to exist. During the meditation course, my thoughts were in the air. I watched them flutter away, settle on different wings of my mind. Observe them without judgment, I was told. How do you do that? And then, I realized. It’s really just the breath. Just breath turning into air. The air is ephemeral. It’s nothing. And everything. The air that doesn’t exist unless we feel. What was in the air for me in 2016? Just the breath.
I am learning to move with the breath. I have tried to meditate regularly. I have tried to allow the breath to become air, to allow the thoughts to hang in the air without judgment. I have built dreams in the air this year. I have built friendships in the air, watching them crumble. I have lived in the air, weighed down by its weightlessness. I realize that I need to live in the air. To just breathe in. Out. And to savor the delicious whiff of every moment.