Breath: The Only Requirement
Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at 5:33PM
jane in Linklater technique, New York Stories, Samuel Beckett, aging, bones, breath, death, diaphragm, dying, happy, lungs, self-awareness, skeleton, survival, voice

I wake up pondering. Doing it for months. Reminding myself I'm going to die. It's positively unrelenting. Starting right after a young man on the subway calls me elderly, while chastising everyone else in the car for not offering me their seat. When I’m of the mind, I’m doing fine. Getting out of bed on my own. Working around being trapped inside my birth-date. Of which there’s no getting out. That makes me mad. I’m still breathing. And since breath means life; count me in. 

Then I get an idea. I could be doing it better. Enhancing my life by oxygenating all my cells inside my lower lungs and diaphragm. Giving them what they require to produce energy. Which is what I'm after. Since we humans are balls of that ageless stuff.  

But presently, I feel congealed air locked inside my chest. The vocal folds inside my neck under-performing, leaving me wanting and waiting for my true voice. I got it. I'll learn how to master breath. In deference to Samuel Beckett.He suffered from breathlessness.   

He also got it right. It's breath that keeps us here. It's absence means we're gone. Look at his 124-word play, taking 35 seconds from start to finish called "Breath." There's not a live actor in sight and he makes his point. Opening with a junk strewn stage, dim light, the cry of a new-born. Then stronger light. A recording of someone inhaling. Exhaling. Less light. Then that same brief, faint cry. End of play. End of life. Check his directorial notes if you need more proof.

He uses inspiration and expiration. For their shared Latin root. Spir. Breath. No synonyms here. He's imploring. Leaving me to add the word respiration, derived from that same root. Extracted from my present preoccupation. Understanding the action required inside breathing. Working weekly with a teacher who has studied with Kristin Linklater. A vocal coach who employs art and imagery in helping you free your natural voice. And I've experienced change.

Speaking slower. Verbalizing fewer tangential thoughts. Doing more prioritizing. Emerging from a shadowy woodland into a patch of sunlit greenery. Wishing to say to that endocrinologist who wants me on a pill. “It’s breath. Not medication. That's the way to make yourself right."    

Or, if satisfied with your existing respiratory prowess, and desirous of being reminded of its  temporariness, subscribe to “WeCroak.” An app that pings your phone five times a day at various intervals with a text, “Remember. We’re all going to die.” To amplify, it tags on a quote elaborating on your soon-to-be rotting flesh. While I advise. Note the number five. It comes from an old Bhutanese folk song claiming a happy man thinks about death five times a day.

I do. Then in a second switch to a more upbeat thought.         

“Bones are your body's resonators. With cervical posture pivotal to voice resonance and pitch support. Get to know cervical 1. Or C 1 named Atlas. The vertebra beneath your cranium. Go to C2. Known as Axel. Below C1. Those two allow your neck to go up and down, side to side and in circles."  

Everything the teacher says is new. Especially the head sitting atop the spine. When I've been treating it as if it was a separate entity. Lifting it from the skull. As if it's my mind's doing. Giving myself jaw, neck and upper back pain.  

"Overall postural alignment's necessary for voice production. Pay attention to your spinal cord. It allows for complete body function. Take the sacrum. That wedge-shaped vertebra at the inferior end. Your gravity's center. From head to knees to feet. It keeps you vertical, even as your upper body reaches for the stars. ”  

What I'm getting is:the skeleton unlocks your bliss. I'm going for it. And it's Saturday, June 16. Fourteen of us are at St. Marks in the Bowery. It's 11:30 am. I'm about to do a tour. A couple, he holding a German Shepherd, she a Golden Retriever ask, “Can we take them along?”

Being an animal lover I say, "Yes. But be warned. If they get bored, I'll feel bad. Tell me their interests? “ Neither of them move a facial muscle. The dogs look up. With tongues hanging out. It's hot. I ask, “Did you bring water.” She says. “No. We expected fountains.” I say, “Did you think we'd be traversing Utopia?” I take out my bottle. I empty its contents into the bowl she offers. The humans say nothing. The dogs lap it up.

Thank you. No thank you. No matter. I breathe. I'm going to die. I get happy. Just like how I react when my play is rejected from the Fringe Festival. 

Accepted. Rejected. No matter. I'm going to die. I'm happy. I breathe.








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