Hinga at Pahinga (Breathe and Rest)

Hinga at Pahinga (Breathe and Rest)

Artist Statement by Althea Balmes

When I was deep in my heartbreak, I asked Maria Montejo what I needed to do to heal and she said to breathe, it will help me metabolize. So she taught me to breathe like a baby. Their bellies would expand as they took full breaths. 

Everytime I felt the sense of urgency to react, the feelings and thoughts (‘the story’) settling in, the feeling of dis-ease taking over, I practiced those breaths while I allowed these things (Maria described them as energy) to pass through me. Sharp inhale through my nose, expand the belly and slowly out through the mouth. I allowed this heavy energy to pass and just noticed what came up. The tears would come with clarity and the medicine for my broken heart would always reveal itself after. 

Thich Nhat Hanh said that the path of coming home is with the breath. Breathing mindfully helps us listen to our own suffering. And the act of acknowledging our feelings without judgment is an act of homecoming (in the here, the now, in the present & in the body). 

Our own ancestors understood the significance of breath or air. I will always be in awe and in gratitude to them for giving us the code to good relations through our script, baybayin. I reflect on the baybayin HA (doesn’t this look like how you would draw wind?). HA is the foundation syllable for any words rooted in air, wind (hangin) and breathe (hinga). Such as ginhawa, the tagalog word for wellbeing. In many Filipino indigenous teachings, the breath is understood as our spirit, our essence. Our diverse teachings emphasize our well-being depends on our harmonious relation to self, nature, spirits and community. Our breathing tells us when we are not in harmony in these realms, so it is good to pay attention to our breath and the air in our body.

A curious thing about breath. If you are at peace and at ease, your breathing would sync up naturally to the rhythm of Earth. I noticed this on my many anxious/depressive/ activated driven walks. How my breathing changed by the end of the walk. The movement of the cloud, the blades of grass, the branches moved by the gentle wind is the same rhythm as a body at rest. It is what lulls you to sleep on a good day or calms your nerves on a bad day.

To return to our breath is to return to our essence. I see this to mean, reset our nervous system and to realign back to the rhythm of mother nature. The act of rest (magpahinga) is to give attention to our breath so we can reset to our natural harmonious easeful state.

We share with you: the Hinga at Pahinga Bucket Hat

The design for hinga at pahinga is inspired by the sitting position of one who is practicing mindfulness. It is a stylized illustration of one who is at ease and in connection with their breath. As you look in more detail, the mouth is fully opened, a reminder that we are always whole. The hand comes together to form a heart, an homage to the overall message of self-love, self-compassion in the practice of breathing mindfully. This figure is created by writing the prayer, hinga at pahinga written in blue in contrast to the peach colour. By intentionally obscuring the prayer from our vision you are invited to feel and embody this prayer instead. Underneath the image is the word pahinga written in baybayin. A direct reminder to return to our breath so we can reset to our natural easeful state of being. 

About the Artist and Author: Althea Balmes (she/they/siya) is a multidisciplinary visual storyteller & arts-educator. I carry the Ilocano and Ilonggo lineages and stories of my ancestors. My artistic work focuses on the multiplicity of our experience of migration and diasporic personhood. I tap into the ancestral, the sacred and the intangible cultures of my people. I approach this work like visual ethnographies to connect to past, present and future existence and the Unseen worlds. My work is about deepening our human experience and being a witness to alternative worldviews and realities. For my people, my hope is that the work is healing. 

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