Life is in the breath; therefore he who
Every spiritual tradition of the world, past and present, places a central emphasis on an awareness of the breath. That is, how conscious are we of the life giving air as it flows in and out of our body. Awareness of our breath goes along way toward enhancing self-understanding, as well as adjusting, harmonizing, and unifying the often scattered and restless parts of our self. Secreted within the vast ocean of air, there is a subtle element that is the Source of Life, given in generous measure by the Creator as our most essential nourishment.
This underlying, unseen life energy permeates the Universe and vitalizes all forms of life. Everything is but an outer expression of the life force. It is pure, undivided, constant, and inexhaustible. So, in it we can trust! It is the “primary source of our sustenance,” says yoga teacher Richard Hittleman. In China, this hidden energy is called chi or qi, while the Japanese refer to it as ki. Other cultural names are pneuma (from ancient Greece) and prana (from Hindu and Yogic tradition).
Receiving the life force from the air, breathing slowly and rhythmically, is the most natural, simple, and gentle way to attain inner harmony, which translates to health, wholeness, and joy. The cup (the lungs) must first empty thoroughly on the exhalation in order to allow for the full measure of the next inhalation. Think of it as a rebirth. Such a “complete breath” fills the lungs entirely, resulting in greater aliveness as more life force is circulated throughout the body. The breath is thus a perfect means to keep the channels clear and fluid as the energy moves freely. Healthfulness, after all, is associated with the words “holy” and “sacred.”
In the breath that I am, I am always new.
Several closely linked concepts coalesce around the transformative power of air and breath. The Latin aerem and Greek aer are related to aeirein—“to raise”—and also with arteria (the windpipe or artery) in its movement of “lifting, that which rises.” The Greek pneuma means not only the influence of the breath but also inspiration and the spirit of a person. The Old French espirit (from the Latin spiritus) pertains to “breath, vigor, courage, and the soul,” and by the mid 13th century “spirit” was considered the “animating or vital principle in people and animals.” The aura—the subtle emanation surrounding our physical body—is derived from the Latin/Greek aura, which again correlates with “air, breeze, wind, and breath.” Sanskrit adds its contribution with atma, as the “essence, breath, and soul.” Atman signifies the “soul, principle of life, and breath,” while a Mahatma is literally “great-souled.”1
Allowing our self to BE at one with and inhale gently
From an astrological perspective, Mercury rules the nervous system, lungs, respiratory tract, and the breath. Forever curious and restless, Mercury also governs the mind, the power of thought, and the developing human consciousness, as we interface with our everyday environment. He is the agile, fleet-of-foot god of messages, traveling betwixt worlds on his multiplicity of errands to carry and bring back communications. Rising to the realm of the transcendent, cerebrally oriented Mercury can bestow the ability of true communion, enhancing the link between our outer and higher minds, between matter and spirit through gaining control over our breath as it relaxes and rests the nervous system. Our “too many minds” become the one tranquil mind with every calm breath. The element of Air and the Air signs (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius) are also naturally linked with the conscious use of the breath that results in peace and restoration of body and mind.
Know thyself through thy breath
“the thirty-six breaths”
Offered from The Touch of Healing, here is an effortless breathing practice that will restore natural balance to all of the functions within you:
“Begin by counting your exhalations. (‘One, exhale, inhale. Two, exhale, inhale. Three, exhale, inhale.’ And so on.) Count until you have completed thirty-six breaths. If you lose count, you can start again. This can be done at one time or throughout the day, counting in four groups of nine. Allow your breathing to unfold naturally. In time, your breathing will automatically become deeper and more rhythmic.”2
2. Alice Burmeister with Tom Monte. The Touch of Healing: Energizing Body, Mind, and Spirit with the Art of Jin Shin Jyutsu®. 1997. Bantam Books. Page 21.
Text © by Zane Maser, 2013. Photos of clouds © by Chris Maser, 2013. All rights reserved worldwide.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.
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