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Ha Ha Ha
by Stewart Blackburn

I recently went to see a local production of "Young Frankenstein, the Musical" here in Hawaii. It was very well done and a lot of fun. It was great to see the familiar characters both speaking the classic lines from the movie and then also singing ridiculous songs about the nature of reanimation and what it takes to be alive.

I was having trouble breathing at the time and the effort to both laugh and take in oxygen was mildly challenging. The irony of laughing, a very healthy and powerful breathing, while feeling constricted in my breathing was itself amusing to me. I marveled, at the time, that the Hawaiian word for breath, HA, was repeated when in English we write what laughing sounds like, hahaha.

We express our lives fully and spontaneously when we laugh. We breathe deeply and open our energy channels in the course of laughing. Frankenstein's creature takes his first breath while Dr. Frankenstein proudly screams, "It's alive! It's alive!" And we in turn laugh and breath in the same fashion as we silently, and probably unconsciously, say to ourselves, "I'm alive! I'm alive!"

The Breath of Life is so precious and yet so constantly present that it's easy to forget about how it is the essence of our existence here on Earth. It is only when that breath is taken away, or miraculously given, do we really get to see the magnitude of this gift.

Three days after I saw "Young Frankenstein, The Musical" I found that I could not get enough air into my body to do even the simplest of tasks. I could breathe fine, but it wasn't doing me any good. Finally, I drove myself to the Emergency Room, some 50 minutes away. The driving was fine but I couldn't walk to the ER door. Mercifully, someone brought a wheelchair for me and I got there eventually. I had a massive pulmonary embolism, a blood clot from my leg lodged in the artery going into my lungs. The air was there but my blood couldn't get into the lungs to get it. The Breath of Life had gotten precariously close to leaving me.

A pulmonary specialist doctor was called in and hit me with a very powerful "clot buster" that had substantial risks. But something risky needed to be done. It was the chemical equivalent of being hoisted up to the roof of a Transylvanian castle to get struck by lightening. And, fortunately, it worked!

I breathe today because of this modern doctor's actions. And I'm very grateful for all he did. But I come away with another lesson as well.

The Breath of Life was in me, there was plenty of oxygen all around, and everything else was working perfectly. It was only the blockages in my artery that prevented me from getting the life sustaining oxygen. I was blocking my own life. Not intentionally, of course, but some part of me was stopping the blood from flowing. In the same way, how often do we all block our life force with our resistances and fears? How often do we allow our judgments, our criticisms, and our shame to keep us from fully living?

It's not enough to have the Breath of Life, our HA. That is the gift we are given when we are born. It also takes the willingness and ability to accept that Breath of Life in order to make it all work right. So often we block ourselves from that which is most precious to us. These personal blocks of ours are completely unnecessary, even if they are commonplace and not immediately life threatening. Sometimes that willingness to accept the Breath of Life takes courage, courage to look at our own fears and doubts. Sometimes it's a matter of feeling through things that don't feel good. Sometimes we merely need to accept that things have changed. But until we do that, we block our life force in the most tragic of ways--a slow, sad sucking of our life to the point of death.

When my pulmonary blockages were dissolved I could breathe better than I have done for a long time. And, as I do the same with my own emotional and mental blockages, I also breathe so much better. I let the life force flow. I let the Breath of Life fill me and energize me.

And now, with great pride I, too, can laugh and shout, "I'm alive! I'm alive!"

Stewart Blackburn is the author of The Skills of Pleasure: Crafting the Life You Want. His website is:; email:

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