We take it for granted. The inhalation. The exhalation. It all happens involuntarily.
When practicing meditation they tell you to focus on the breath. Allow all thoughts to pass by. That's all I've been able to do in the wee hours of the last three nights. Focus on my breathing. As I suffer from a congested head. Sniffles. A runny nose.
During the day when I'm awake breathing requires no thought. But the instant I put my head on the pillow it consumes my thoughts. I struggle to find just one thin pathway to inhale and then again to exhale. One small opening in what seems to be a block of hardened concrete. Eventually I find it and work a little harder on each breath to enlarge it and allow more oxygen to fill my lungs.
When I bore a wide enough route, I can relax and allow my autonomic system to take over. Once those moments of near panic pass, a thought occurred to me. What do the people with respiratory illnesses, emphysema, asthma, lung cancer do? Is this their hourly, daily lot? Forever gasping and grasping for air.
According to Medline, (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lungdiseases.html) millions of people in the US suffer from respiratory illnesses, some fatal some not. All debilitating in some way at some time. When lumped together they become the number three killer in the U.S.
My congested head will become unblocked in a day or two. And then I won't have to think about my inhalation and exhalation so often. But for those who struggle with these health problems, it can be a lifetime. And they are on the rise.
The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board reports (http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/asthma/asthma.htm) that, "The prevalence of asthma in the U.S. has increased by more than 75% since 1980; children and certain racial groups, especially African Americans, have experienced relatively greater increases in as thmaprevalence. An estimated 11.9% of Californians - 3.9 million children and adults - report that they have been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives, compared to the national average of 10.1%."
In areas where coal fired power plants reside, the incidence increases.
According to the American Lung Association, 24,000 people a year die prematurely because of pollution from coal-fired power plants. And every year 38,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital admissions and an additional 550,000 asthma attacks result from power plant pollution.
The Coal is Dirty website,http://www.coal-is-dirty.com/the-coal-hard-facts, reports this along with the statistic that The United States burns more than a billion tons of coal each year – that's 20 pounds of coal for every person in the country, every day.
Since the mantra of "clean coal" is a wish and a myth created by the coal industry. We will create new sufferers as long as we continue burning and extracting fossil fuels.
The thoughts that pass through your brain when you can't breathe can really blow your mind.