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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Unleashing The Power of Unlimited Creativity

Yoga is the uniting of our being—body, mind and soul—with the Creative Force of the universe. Achieving this union earns us access to the unlimited potential of the human being. The human being is a microcosm, or simply a smaller version of the infinite universe which gave birth to creation. We are quite literally made of the stars that once populated the cosmos. As such we contain the latent potential to create just as we have been created. This is heady stuff to be sure, but how do we bring the unitive force to bear and release the unlimited energy that resides dormant within us?

The process begins with focus, the focus of vibration to be more exact. Focus becomes concentration (dharana), concentration becomes pure essence (dhyana) and pure essence opens the door to boundless creativity (samadhi)—perhaps as the Big Bang did at the beginning of creation.

We can demonstrate concentration in the process of distillation. As heat, the focus of a vibratory force is applied to a fermented liquid, the water is driven off and we produce a concentrated “proof” of alcohol. This is one way concentration organizes matter into a purer form.

Perhaps a better illustration is the science of cymatics and cymatic music. Cymatics is the application of sound frequency to organize matter. Follow this URL to see this illustrative video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtiSCBXbHAg  The logical extension of this phenomenon is cymatic music—that is music that is composed in certain frequencies to influence the molecules of the human body into more harmonic operation. See John Tefler’s video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sThS9OfnM1s

After physically seeing how sound organizes matter, we can begin to understand the science behind chanting mantra and prayer. Chanting is the intentional use of frequency to concentrate vibration to elevate the human experience into unlimited creativity. (Chanting is native to all spiritual traditions. St. Augustine said, “When we sing, we pray twice.”) The vibration we emit during chanting directly effects the brain and the production of the “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and the enkephalins. Endorphins are one type of enkaphalin.

Chanting directly effects the hypothalamus gland that helps control mood. Apparently, the meridians connected to the hard palate in the mouth are stimulated like a key board which is connected to the hypothalamus. These lines of transmission relay vibration to the brain in order to reduce stress, decrease cortisol production and induce a healing relaxation response.[1]

The icing on the cake of unifying the human being to the unlimited creative force of the universe is meditation. But where’s the vibration in that you might ask? Thought has vibration as well, albeit more subtle than music or vocalization. Masaru Emoto’s book “The Hidden Messages of Water” reveals how prayer can influence water molecules. Emoto froze water in various states and photographed the crystal formations that existed in the samples. Water that had been labeled with negative writing produced asymmetrical, disorganized shapes. Conversely, water that had positive affirmations written on the containers developed the beautiful architecture of snowflakes. Polluted water which produced distressed-looking shapes was subjected to the healing vibrations of prayer transformed into the beautiful uniform, snowflake designs.

The human body is over 70% water. The healing vibrations of chanting, prayer, mantra, and affirmation can help transform us, too. We can become healthier, more connected to our creative ability and more cohesive as communities.

Focusing our intention in meditation creates powerful, subtle mental vibrations that reach deeply into our brains to help us harmonize with the frequencies of the unlimited creative force of the universe.

I’ve often been puzzled by the Apostle Paul’s admonition (Romans 12:21) to “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” How is that possible? Violent, destructive ego-possessed people will stop at nothing to get their way. Now, with the tools of yoga, chanting and meditation we can raise our children to harmonize with goodness. We can transform illness into health; we can change our brains; we can lift our depression with the harmonics of the unlimited creative power unleashed by chanting, prayer and meditation.

A new world awaits our application of concentration. This why we’re here, to heal each other and the universe. Could there be any greater challenge or adventure?

 

 

[1] http://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2010/06/mantra-meditation-an-adhd-panacea/

A Doorway to Realizing Full Human Potential

Human kind has been living under the illusion that chronology is the best way to measure time. Of course, dividing time into years, months, hours, seconds and beyond does serve myriad purposes. Precise measurements and split second accuracy benefit us in many ways. But they tell us little to nothing about the quality of time in human experience.

I’ve heard it said that yogis measure the moments of their lives by each conscious breath. Since we are only rarely aware of the breath that keeps us alive, it may boggle our minds that the human breath would even be considered as an increment for evaluating time. How could computing time by each inhalation and exhalation be of any use to us at all? Such an idea might even seem silly and unworthy of further deliberation. But anytime you think something is just plain hooey is exactly the time to stop and ponder that idea from another angle.

Raising “consciousness” has long been a hallmark of what some would call the New Age movement. For that very reason one might dismiss it out-of-hand as a crackpot concept to be flushed away as so much refuse. Though New Age thought may have its share of sloppy or wishful thinking, becoming more aware is not something that came along with the Age of Aquarius. To the contrary—since the first human being sat still with eyes closed following the rhythmic breath, acute awareness and expanding consciousness ensued. Jane Hirshfield in her poem “The Door” puts it aptly: The rest note, unwritten, hinged between worlds, that precedes change and allows it.” As a compliment, T.K.V. Desikachar wrote in his book, “The Heart of Yoga”,: “Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present—really present—in every action, in every moment.”

“Yeah, so,” you might ask?

I would answer, “When we are truly present within the ebb and flow of each breath, we open the connection to the full potential that human experience has to offer.”

Poet, Danna Faulds, in her poem, “Breath” nails it down succinctly. “In the breath, the soul finds an opportunity to speak.”

As I sat in meditation this morning, I swam my way through the usual distractions. (Note: The intensity of distractions often correlates directly to the amount of visual media I’ve consumed). But I’ve found a method to help wash distractions away— attention on the breath. Before the beginning of each inhalation and exhalation, I pause and recompose my attention to the pinpoint of that moment with my focus on the third eye or ajna chakra. (Ajna chakra corresponds to the pineal and pituitary glands in the brain. Both are powerful hormone producers that regulate essential body functions). Combined with the simple mantra, So Ham (Hum), I can practice one-pointed attention on my breath. To reinforce this technique, I further merge my attention to the action of my body as it breathes. Feeing the ebb and flow of the breath into the belly and chest supports the mental aspect of breath attention. By using this technique we can learn to displace the distractions that so often limit the depth of my meditation. By no means am I an accomplished adept at this technique, but this practice offers tantalizing evidence of its value.

Developing one-pointed concentration is the difference between attempting to do something and the mastery of that thing. Peak performance, as anyone who has achieved it will tell you, is a matter of being “in the zone.” The door way to the zone is samadhi or absorption into the object of your concentration as Patanjali said in the Yoga Sutras. Jesus of Nazareth confirms this in Mathew 6:22 when he says “…when your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”

Regardless of your religious beliefs, a mind trained to one-pointed focus can achieve bliss, excellence, joy, ethical groundedness and accomplishment beyond normal everyday existence. We see this in champion athletes, business tycoons, great religious figures and intellectual giants. These seemingly super-normal human beings have simply mastered some aspect of absolute concentration.

This ability to be full of light is the doorway to our dreams as individuals and as a species. The only limits are those we impose upon ourselves.

So, is it a watch with a second hand you want or the conscious quality of your breath?

A Useful Meditation Technique

Beginning a meditation practice can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a teacher or don’t practice with an experienced group. The mind has been likened to a monkey stung by a scorpion. It jumps around wildly and chatters a mile a minute. It’s easy to give up after trying to calm such a creature. The key, as with anything else in life is the golden virtue of persistence.

First, sit in any comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. It’s best to keep your back erect without the support of the chair if your back will allow it. Try to remain perfectly still allowing not motion whatsoever. Your asana or posture practice will help you build the strength and health of your body so you can do this. That is, in fact, the explicit purpose of asana.

You may close your eyes or leave your eyes open while focusing on a stationary object or just allow your eyes to go out of focus.

Fold the hands or use an easy mudra.

Begin using the three part breath. Allow your belly to be soft. Breathe into your belly; draw the breath up into the solar plexus and heart. Slowly exhale using the abdominal muscles and diaphragm to gently push the air out. Brief deeply enough to adequately supply your needs, and use each breath to become progressively more relaxed. Slow your breath and keep it even and regular.

I recommend using a simple mantra. Two syllables works really well. I use the So Ham (like hum) mantra. It means “I am that.” Silently say “so” as you inhale and “hum” as you exhale. Of course, you may use any meaningful or sacred phrase you choose. Concentrate on the breath, mantra and the motion of your belly and chest.

As you breathe and repeat your mantra, you will notice that the mind can still jump all over the place despite your efforts of concentration. You may forget your mantra and breath and be caught away in some personal drama or see the characters of your favorite TV show floating through your mind. I saw the entire cast of Downton Abbey this morning. When you notice that you’ve lost your concentration, gently bring your mind back to your breath and mantra. As you concentrate, become a disinterested third party witness to the things your mind will do. Give them no weight or importance, simply observe the thoughts and let them go. They will soon be replaced by others; you can be sure of it.

Now, here’s the trick to help you keep your concentration. As you reach the top of your inhalation pause just long enough to notice it. Likewise, when you reach the bottom of your exhalation, pause without beginning your next inhalation for a brief moment. While the breath is suspended for that short span, the mind will remained focused. Suspension of the very act that that keeps you alive brings the attention to the present.

Experiment with the length of your pauses. I usually make the pause after the exhalation longer than the inhalation pause. Breath suspension is much easier after the exhalation because the lungs are nearly empty with no pressure inside them.

As you use this technique, the gallivanting mind will begin to slow down. Lengthen your meditation sessions and you will find that dharana or concentration will transition into dhyana or meditation. Eventually you will experience the ecstatic peace of total absorption into your true nature which is bliss. Meditation helps us to remember who we are.

The path to samadhi will have some bumps in it. Some days the intensity of what the yoga sutras call the “modifications” of the mind are quite resistant to our best efforts. Some meditation sessions may feel fruitless and without effect. During those times be grateful for and enjoy your breath—and most of all persist. You will be rewarded. You will touch your true nature. You will achieve a peace in your life that will give you the strength to be who you really want to be.