Feel like you’re drowning?  

How long can you hold your breath?

I guess it would depend on a variety of factors, wouldn’t it? Lung conditioning, body size, depth of determination. I’m sure there are many.

How long can you hold your breath under water?

swimming7The factors from above suddenly take on secondary importance, don’t they? Now the first factor comes down to one question really: how badly do you want to stay alive?

Let’s try two different tests:

I’ll time you while you are underwater. You cannot come up before 15 seconds are up. If you can stay under longer than that, great; but you must go at least 15 seconds.

You can see it, can’t you? We’d take a deep breath and go under. We’d start to tap one finger against the side of the pool, counting carefully to 15. Chances are we’d make it to 15 before the clock would. We’d be frustrated that they aren’t counting correctly and doubt that they are paying attention. Even if we think we’ll push for 20, those last 5 seconds go VERY slowly. When we come up for air, we breathe deeply and wipe the water out of our eyes and hold on to the edge to rest.


Hey guys, I have tossed several silver dollars on the bottom of the pool. You can keep whatever you can bring up.

This time it’s just a quick breath and down everyone goes. None of us are counting how long we are holding our breath; we are all focused on the search for the money. When we know we need more oxygen to keep looking, we’ll quickly ascend, take another breath, and dive back down, continuing our search as if nothing had stopped us.  Without realizing it, we will go 30, 40, even 50 seconds without much of a second thought.



We all know something that is right in front of our face will get our closest attention.

Being told we CAN’T breathe until the timer runs out, all we think about is what we can’t have: oxygen.

swimming9Being told we CAN gain a reward and that it’s just a matter of our ability to work for it helps to push that need for oxygen from desperate to an asset. In a way, it is an obstacle to be overcome as we aim for what we have been told we can have.

We need the air to breathe in both cases. We need the same amount of it. In fact, we probably need more in the second scenario because we are working harder.

But we worry about it less.

I’m sure it would be safe to say that everyone has personal trials that represent their own circumstance where they need to hold their breath: mental illness, financial strains, health crises, marital and familial estrangements, discord regarding sexuality, political polarization, fractured faith, loneliness, permanent disability.

One way or another, there is something that can keep each of us from breathing easily all the time.

swimming8The question is: are you going to tap your finger on the side of the pool, living every long, drawn-out second as torture until you can come up again for breath?

Or will you look for the prize at the bottom of the pool?

In either case we are under water.

It’s interesting to see how much longer I can hold my breath when I’m not mentally thrashing about in a panic for my next breath, but instead focusing on the good that I can find, hidden in the depths.

swimming4That, and when the only other alternative is drowning.

We all need oxygen. I think the difference is if we are gasping for each one, or if we are strengthening our lungs to hold more and more.

Either way, keep coming up for breath.

The point is to live.



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