Exhale Your Truth. Breathe Out What You’re Holding In.


Exhaling is a dangerous dance with uncertainty. But holding our breath is certain death.

I put off writing this post for a long time. Of course, I knew in an instant that I wanted to write it. Inspiration often happens that way. I don’t mean inspiration in the sublime or spiritual sense (or maybe I do). I mean inspiration in the more mundane sense of that which fills our lungs and blood with oxygen, that which gives life, and most importantly, that which cannot sustain us unless we breathe it out again.

It’s the breathing process and not the inspiration alone that keeps us alive.

And this is where persistent procrastination becomes so perilous — in those moments we hold our breath and wonder: What if the words don’t come out right? What if those close to us can smell — as they always do — the hint of halitosis in even our sweetest speech? What if we reveal too much? Well, the good news is there’s no reason to wonder. All of that will happen. But it won’t matter to those who truly love you.

They’ll be far too grateful you made room for your next breath by having the courage to exhale — to speak, to sing, to protest, to affirm, to be honest, to create, to love. Exhaling is a dangerous dance with uncertainty. But holding our breath is certain death.

Unlike the consequences of a bad decision, the consequences of indecision are often learned too late. We’ve held in that idea, that song, that vision, waiting for the perfect conditions, waiting until we’re more prepared. But sooner or later, we realize that no such day is coming. There are no perfect conditions. We will never be prepared.

Sharing what matters most to you with others — breathing out — will always be an act of bravery.

Your breath won’t take the same aesthetic form as mine, but it will always be worth the risk.

When I let myself exhale, the air often passes through my vocal chords and comes out as a song. And when I finally let myself share these songs with others (as I’m attempting to do with my current community funding campaign) there is a reward — a type of connection — that I often forget to anticipate.

I’ve come to expect that musical practice will, of course, facilitate connection with other people.

When I sing or pluck a string, the same sound frequencies that vibrate in my body reverberate through everyone present as well. That’s a powerful connection. Music also enlivens the stories we tell one another — stories that, while particular, echo universal human experiences: love, loss, birth, growth, death. That’s a powerful connection too. But music also facilitates a connection with oneself.

When you exhale, musically or otherwise, you leave a space that can once again be filled with our reciprocally generous atmosphere. And it’s in this ever unfolding cycle of expression and inspiration that you feel fully connected to your own mind, body and spirit. Only as you breathe both in and out can you be truly alive.

Do you need a breath of fresh inspiration? I know I do.

So let’s breathe out what we’ve been holding in for far too long.

Just breathe. Breathe. Breathe.


Nicholas Zork is a singer-songwriter, composer, arranger, music director and collaborative artist. His songs, academic writing and music practices explore ways that music can resonate, embody meaning, cultivate diverse and inclusive community, and overcome social barriers. He is the musical director for TINTR, a diverse artists’ community in New York City, with whom he has helped create collaborative concerts at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, Apollo Music Cafe and other venues. He is the artistic director and co-curator for Carnegie Hill Concerts, a chamber music series that features artists of different genres and disciplines in curated, shared programs, bringing people together to participate in the celebration and cultivation of New York City’s diverse community. And he is a founding partner of SongLab, an online music education community. Nicholas’ classical compositions have been performed by university and festival choirs, and his music has appeared in numerous television programs. In addition to writing and recording with other artists, Nicholas also performs his own folk-oriented pop songs. His music has taken him around the United States, Europe and to Australia. Nicholas’ EPs, “Questions I Can’t Answer” and “All We Own” explore issues of love, loss, doubt and hope through stories — both autobiographical and imagined.


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