I heard this term many years ago in an exercise science lab at ASU. It refers to the amount of oxygen a person can bring into their lungs in one breath and the amount they can release. Of course more is better and for good reason. Oxygen brings nutrients to every part of our being giving us life and energy. The carbon dioxide we release is full of toxins. The deeper the exhalation the more cleansed we become. Oxygen gives us life and vitality. Releasing carbon dioxide cleans us out of what is harmful.
I thought that was interesting as a scientific reality for many years.
Lately I have been living in the metaphor of those words and reality. Vital capacity, our capacity for true vitality. It’s about our capacity to live more fully by consciously receiving more of and from the good that is all around us. To reach our vital capacity also requires letting go of what we don’t need anymore, to release the toxins and cleanse our selves with every single breath.
Our breath cycle, the constant and repetitive action of breathing in and out is a natural process that heals and strengthens us in every moment. Taking in, gathering, opening, filling up from what is all around us provides nourishment, energy and life force. Fully releasing and letting go of what we don’t need heals and strengthens us in every moment. The process of breathing is our life force and contains within it everything we need to grow. We are inherently designed to thrive.
Another part of the breath cycle that often goes by unnoticed is a beautiful pause. Every time we inhale there is an almost imperceptible pause, an exquisitely alive stillness that is there before we exhale. Try it as your reading this now. Become aware of your breath coming into you. Don’t force it. You may want to ‘take’ a couple breaths first to get out-of-the-way of your breathing. (I say ‘take’ in quotations because we actually receive breath. So much of our language about the natural process of things is often distorted.) When you are breathing naturally and allowing the breath to fall into you, notice what happens at the end of your inhalation. Is there a moment before you begin to exhale? Is there a place of openness and almost nothingness?
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Now go through the same process with your exhalation and notice after you exhale if there is another moment of quiet. Can you sense that quiet in your self? I am never aware of these places of ease and peace without bringing consciousness to them. I have to remind myself that those peaceful moments are there and that breathing is much easier and softer than I usually make it. In fact, we don’t ‘make’ ourselves breathe at all. Breathing happens in us and for us. Breathing is involuntary. Pausing and resting is natural and an inherent part of our being alive.
So today, if you re-member, bring your self together and notice your vitality. Notice the gifts of life all around you and bring them in to your self. Notice what you can let go of, what you don’t need anymore? What is toxic for you. Let it go. On every exhalation let go and allow your self the opportunity to rest in the peace of your being knowing that you are vitally alive and have the capacity to thrive.