The Intimate Breath

The breath is not only how we receive the vitality of life, but it is our most intimate connection with Universal Prana, or creative force. Our first and last breaths define the boundaries of our physical lives. Yet, most of us ignore the breath and remain largely innocent of its power to transform our lives. The breath is automatic. Since it is automatic, we simply let it run on auto pilot as we go about our automatic lives. But the breath can also be transgressive, subversive and revolutionary. It is the sacred tool to break the robotic molds into which popular culture is being used to mold us.

Yoga and other related sciences of transformation like Ayurveda, Qigong, and Tai Chi, invite us to use the breath consciously. Within the conscious breath lie worlds that are hidden from everyday life. The art and science of using the breath with conscious control is the difference between mere existence and plumbing the depth of existence itself.

In Yoga, using the breath consciously is called Pranayama. Pranayama means to expand the life force, to energize ourselves toward a larger potential. To extend our life force with the breath requires only one, but very important feature: one-pointed attention.

In a world with so many stimuli clamoring for our attention, this is something most folks just don’t get around to or are even aware is possible. We have been programmed and dazzled by the media culture to the point that we seldom think our own thoughts. We need only simply look around and see people absorbed in their “devices,” imbibing artificial data streams of often meaningless entertainment to keep us from thinking our own thoughts. Asking people to simply sit quietly, following their breath, the most powerful personal force they will ever know, seems pretty poor competition for the seemingly glamorous distractions offered to us by our media saturated world.

But if you have reached the point of being sick with this saturation, and what is really colonization of your once-autonomous mind, then here is your invitation to break the collective trance under which so many of us have fallen. Here is the chance to develop a love and connection that is the basis for all transformative human experience. Here is the chance to liberate ourselves from the mind gobbling media behemoth that lusts to enslave and consume us. Your simple, life-giving breath is your salvation from a world of ruinous conformity and your ticket to true intimacy with yourself and genuine connection to other human beings who long for humanity, truth and freedom.

The intimate breath is the breath that we use in meditation. It is slow and measured. How do we measure the breath? The intimate breath is not measured with machines, nor is it recorded on graphs. It is measured with attention. When we sit comfortably, we can simply watch the breath as it rises and falls. The intimate breath is a breath where the attention watches each milliliter of breath inhaled and exhaled. By this minute attention we account for every moment of the golden present. This is rapt attention! This is absorption into union with the Universe, the one song, the eternal Presence of cosmic creation. This is the essence of yoga. A taste of this nectar renders its competitors pale by comparison.

This is attention so sharp that it pares away the irrelevance of the colonizing commercial clatter that assaults us daily. This is liberation from a type of possession that seeks to program and use us for the latest trend of mass hypnosis. This attentive breath is a breath so fine that direct knowledge can well up within us from this divine connection to the cosmos without being filtered through the greed of those who would control and dominate us.

The intimate breath is the get out of jail free card that unlocks the door into the intuitive knowledge that precedes all other knowledge.

Using this intimate, attentive breath gives us access to the deep well of knowing, knowing that shines a light into the dark places of the human psyche to help us release our potential as beings of boundlessness.

 

 

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Recovering from Addiction Through Yoga and Ayurveda

During a yoga training course I recently completed we studied with renowned Ayurvedic teacher, Durga. She teaches the yoga of recovery from addiction. The first day she asked each of the 22 people in our class to share their experience with addiction. I found out we were all closely related to an addict of some kind. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandparents and siblings were all among those with addiction issues.

 

My parents were addicted to cigarettes. Tobacco killed them both. They also used alcohol daily.

 

My ex-wife was a cocaine and crystal meth addict for many years. She has never recovered her health.

 

The essential question is why do so many of us succumb to addiction? Durga, a recovering alcoholic who combines the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with yoga and Ayurveda treatment addresses this question from a spiritual perspective. Yoga and Ayurveda (the medical sister science to yoga) say that addiction stems from the fact that we have forgotten our true identity and nature. Likewise, Deepak Chopra speaks of addictions as “self-destructive outlets for an unrecognized spiritual craving.” According to these ancient teachings we are spiritual beings whose true nature is bliss. Consequently, our longing for fulfillment, love, freedom and peace are turned outward rather than inward to our true nature. As Durga says, “we seek the eternal in the transient.” We try to find our bliss by seeking euphoria in the many intoxicants or habits the world offers. Whether our addictions involve alcohol, drugs, food, gambling or shopping, it is a fundamental unhealthy dependence that is at issue.

 

The next question is: what do yoga and Ayurveda offer to help us remember and connect with our true nature which helps us break addictive behavior patterns? Yoga/Ayurveda and the 12 steps agree that breaking addiction begins with recognition of our powerlessness over our addiction and that we must conduct “a fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Yoga calls this svadhyaya or self observation. As we examine our lives with compassion we begin to see the errors and misapprehensions that have led us down the blind alley of addiction. This is where we can start to reclaim our lives and our own heroic journeys. We re-establish the connection with our basic goodness, our innate talents, our breath and our eternal life force or prana.

 

Yoga and Ayurveda offer ways for us to nourish our life force. Through a balanced regimen of delicious, wholesome foods, herbs, proper exercise and meditation we reignite our desire for the sweetness of life that sustains us. Tasting the sweetness of life once again helps to displace addictive behaviors.

 

We also begin to form a new bond of community with like-minded healthy people who can lovingly help us on this path of awakening and reconnection to our true nature and identity.

 

Yoga and Ayurveda offer an effective path of health and recovery to the addict because they address the roots of addiction. Combined with the 12 steps, yoga and Ayurveda provide a comprehensive, holistic way to restore ourselves to balance.

 

For more information please visit Durga at: http://www.yogaofrecovery.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since this is National Yoga Month I want to highlight the ability of yoga to turn back the clock on aging. Personally, in the last twenty years, I’ve increased my capacity for abundant living with my yoga practice. I am stronger, have a better range of motion (I can do the splits) am much more mentally acute and have a more conscious, happier outlook on life than when I was younger.

The pervasive theme of aging is decline, senility and a less than graceful passing. But as I tell my yoga students, decrepitude is a choice. Rising and greeting each day with movement and the breath of joy is the path to conquer all the obstacles in life.

To celebrate my good health and gratitude for my yoga practice I entered the AARP New Faces of 50+ Model Search with the encouragement of my darling wife, Michele. I penned my motto: Gentleness is the Path to Strength, wrote a brief essay and had a new picture taken. Well, low and behold, out of hundreds of contestants I’m a finalist in the contest.

If I am lucky enough to win, I will use this opportunity to continue my yoga/ayurvedic education at the California College of Ayurveda.

If you’re over 50 and reading this, perhaps I could persuade you to take a moment and vote for me. You can VOTE EVERY DAY through Sept. 24. Every time you vote you enter yourself into a sweepstakes to win $5,000. It’s a simple process; even simpler if you’re an AARP member. Below is the URL for registration and voting.

http://sweeps.aarp.org/facesof50/

Simply copy and paste to your browser.

This could potentially mean a great deal to me. I thank you in advance for your vote.

May you be healthy, may you be happy, may you flourish to your potential.

Namaste,

Tim