The surest sign someone is dead is that they are not breathing. The key to #LivingDeeply is a deep, intimate friendship with our breath. Most people are only just aware of the existence of their own breath. They live shallow lives.
***A Spirit of Friendship***
I’m writing about #LivingDeeply this month, and today is day 13.
All traditions hold the breath in high esteem. When someone “expires”, they have just taken their last breath. When someone is “inspired”, they are so filled with awe that they have taken a breath in and are holding it inside as they stare out at the beauty of Yosemite Valley. When people “conspire”, they are merely breathing together as they whisper secrets to each other.
Spirit is breath.
Ruah is breath.
Prana is breath.
These are all words from different traditions, and in all cases, life is equal to breath. But the breath isn’t just the taking in and pushing out of air from the body. The breath is a carefully scripted dance of the physical body, the mind, and the energy systems that animate the body. In fact, “animate” itself refers to the breath, because a thing that does not breath is not capable of moving.
Patanjali talks about प्राणायाम, pranayama, or the extension of life force through the breath. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna taught breath regulation as an important way to regulate our mind.
Being intimate friends with the breath is the most precious gift we can give ourselves. Our sub-conscious mind is beyond the control of conscious thoughts, but we can reach it through the breath. We can talk to our heart through our breath. We can talk to our blood-flow and digestive system through our breath. When we sing, we share not just our voice, but we also share our breathing pattern and heartbeat with our listeners. Careful experts can hear everything. The flow of our breath, the rhythms, the depths, the dance and the viscosity of our breath are all signals from deep inside our selves. But in reverse, we can send signals to our innermost selves through breath regulation. Our moods, our energy levels, our outlook towards life, and our quality of life are all half a breath away. Whether we want to fight or run away. Whether we want to rest and digest. All these internal body functions can be addressed through the breath.
As a child I used to read book and try practices, and later I tried googling and self-teaching. In my own experience of two decades of formal learning, personal practice and direct observation, I find there is more to learn all the time. My own recommendation is to learn pranayama from a trained teacher, because it’s worth learning how to send the right messages to our innermost selves.
Knowing our breath is easy. Just sit with closed eyes and bring your attention to it. You will find a friend for life.