Breathe Your Way to Enlightenment
Our lives are absolutely dependent on the act of breathing
and our vitality, health and wellness are determined
to a very great degree on the quality of our breathing –
and so is the level of our enlightenment!
The intelligent and mindful attention to proper breathing will help us live each day in skin school more healthily, think more clearly, and better able to understand spiritual truths that have been neglected for centuries.
On the other hand mindless and careless breathing will shorten our days by making us susceptible to dis-ease, drain our energy and cause us to lose vitality – and limit our ability to grasp spiritual, metaphorical and metaphysical concepts that could foster more enlightened thinking.
The majority of humankind breathes incorrectly. We haven’t been taught how to breath properly. Schools, colleges and universities don’t teach breathing techniques. Some – not many – athletic organizations teach proper breathing to their athletes. Eastern yogi traditions and their Western counterparts teach it, and so do music schools.
However, 99% of the world’s peoples do not know how to breathe properly. Good diaphragmatic breathing is practically non-existent in Western society.
See our post with several of our favorite breathing practices, complete with the steps you need to try them out for yourself!
What we want to stress is that proper breathing enhances our higher order thinking faculties like intuition, wisdom, and understanding integrative and associative concepts which means we can grasp metaphorical and allegorical thinking, understand metaphysical concepts, and make symbolic connections.
Proper breathing also enhances parasympathetic tone (inhibit neural responses), decreases sympathetic (excitatory) nervous activity, improves respiratory and cardiovascular function, decreases the effects of stress, detoxifies and releases toxins, relieves pain, improves the quality of our blood, massages your organs (stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas) (Pal, Velkumary & Madanmohan 2004; Ritz and Roth, 2003; Slovik, 2000; Guz, 1917).
Every time we breathe improperly we rob ourselves of our birthright to health and wellness, and higher order thinking. Humankind has paid a high price for mismanaging wealth, technology, its physical and emotional health, and a ‘higher standard’ of living.
One more thing, breathing helps you understand wholeness and oneness, polarities and dualities. Breathing is a polarity composed of two opposites: full lungs and empty lungs. You breathe in. You breathe out. It’s important to note that both of these polarities are necessary. Breathing is simply the flow from fullness to emptiness and back again.
The only “harmful” form of respiration is the stoppage of the process. One-sidedness, like my lungs being so full they are bursting at the seams, is damaging to the organism. For example, everyone breathe in and hold your breath. (Allow group to feel a little uncomfortable holding their breaths before encouraging them to exhale).
Breathing is a metaphor for polarities, not dualities. The two opposites – fullness and emptiness – are not in opposition. Night and day are not opposing each other. They constitute a stable whole and oneness and not separateness or opposition.
There are subtle differences between polarities and dualities. While there are overlaps, the blurred edges suggest
When we think of dualities we generally think of oppositions, contrasts, antagonisms, and dichotomies like: peace and war, love and hate, up and down, life and death, optimism and pessimism, lack and abundance, competing and collaborating, and black and white. Dualities seem more confrontational and negative.
When we think of polarities we generally think of contrasts, comparisons, distinctions, juxtapositions, and balancing like: freedom and imprisonment, standing up and sitting down, falling asleep and waking up, inhaling and exhaling, individual and group, home life and work life, flexibility and structure. Polarities seem more complementary and positive.
If we’re splitting hairs, are we talking polarities or dualities?
Some Breathing Humor
Q:What do you call an older person who breathes properly?
A: An oxygenarian. (Bil Holton)
Trees and plants exhale for us so we can inhale them to stay alive. Can we ever forget that? Let us love trees with every breath we take until we perish. (Munia Khan)
Breathing out of your mouth and consuming unhealthy foods that affect your kidneys are to poor physical, mental and spiritual health as a bad air filter is to poor car performance. (Bil Holton)
When feeling lonely or anxious, most of us are distracted by some form of unwholesome consumption – whether eating a snack in the absence of hunger, mindlessly surfing the Internet, going on a drive, or shopping for something material. Conscious breathing is a good way to nourish body and mind with the peace and comfort of mindfulness. (Thich Nhat Hanh)