the breath: gateway to life & truth
Over the last years I’ve been fortunate to have been in breathwork sessions and after that facilitated sessions during my own courses and workshops, as this is a great aid towards my goals with students.
There are many different programs and just as many different names for this ‘working with breath’. I’d like to share my experience and explanation.
Let’s start at the beginning:
(Ah and a caution to the readers: I tend to drift off to other relating subjects here and there… please stay patient 😉
From our first interaction with life until the last we will be accompanied by our breath. It is the first and last thing we’ll do, and we will probably be fully aware about them, making the last one if possible the best one of all!
As it is this important, how strange that we seem to take it for granted during the rest of our lives here…?
As more studies show, what we experience as babies until 7 years of age is highly influential to the rest of our life. We develop certain strategies to deal with the things we encounter and for most of us, we will use these same strategies throughout our adult life.
One strategy or mechanism that we chose , and still choose, is to hold our breath when something happens that affects our wellbeing. Still now, when we get scared or unpleasantly surprised we stop breathing for an instant. Our whole system seems to then stop in its tracks, waiting like a frozen gazelle would stare at the lion in front of it.
If the situation turns out to be not harmful we naturally sigh to release some excess stress-energy. Just as the gazelle would start to tremble uncontrollably when the danger is gone to release the adrenaline. (A very healing way of dealing with adrenaline by the way!)
We human beings have a desperate need to control our environment. We like to think we have control over things around us and even inside us.
Think about this for a moment…do you think you have control over the following:
Your behavior? Your house? The weather? Your job? Your health? Your relationship? Your kids? Cancer? Life?
Shall I continue? Even though with some questions you initially answered with a ‘yes’, think about them again.
Without looking behind you, is the rear wall still there? Or sitting outside, is that tree still behind you?
“Of course it is! You silly writer…!” But without checking behind you and seeing it with your own eyes, you can not be 100% sure, can you?
If you can’t even control what’s behind you, what about other things…
Alright, try this one: whatever you do, for the next 10 seconds, don’t think about a cup of delicious coffee.
Ooh, I can even smell it right now…it’s there isn’t it?
So, not even your own thoughts are under your control.
Better yet, your thoughts control you!
So, back to the breath. As we desperately try to control stuff, holding our breaths is another strategy we started using to control trauma’s that hit us when we were young.
As a Shiatsu therapist I’ve witnessed countless people unconsciously holding their breath when a part of their body was touched which was linked to an unpleasant memory or feeling.
In conversations, I’ve noticed myself how I held my breath while getting through a difficult or tense discussion.
In the gym, many hold their breath was they lift that just too heavy dumbell.
I, and many others, used to suffer from sleep apnea, where I would just stop breathing for a long period of time, only to get ‘shocked back to life’ with a gasp for breath, freaking out the person who was sleeping next to me. Especially during times of stress this would get worse.
In my many years of martial arts training and yoga, all the teachers would emphasize the breath, instructing to breath in, hold, breath out, hold, etc.
In yogic meditation the moment when self consciousness and connection to the divine might happen is during the state of ‘no breath’ or breath retention.
This you should not confuse with forcefully holding your breath in, which is an unnatural thing to do.
The state of No Breath that the yogi’s talk about is a natural development from focusing on the natural flow of breath. The breath becomes through awareness more subtle to a point where it seems no longer there… the body and mind is now so still that the energy normally used for all the activities is put to rest. The whole system comes into a quite state, where also breath is only required at its minimum.
This is a beautiful state to reach, but a long way from what I’m talking about in this blog.
Holding the breath between every cycle as a way to try to control your feelings, emotions, your environment, is actually very energy consuming. It is a sure way of the ego/mind to hold on to everything that was traumatic in your life. Since it loves problems and issues, what better way then this?
So, in my breathwork sessions I often start with a guided meditation to realize that we are not in control. Life is beyond our control, the universe will continue to unfold, with or without our efforts to change it.
Si, in the famous words if Adi Da Samraj: “Relax, nothing is under control “
I think this was taken from the perspective of Gautama Buddha. As he said, all suffering comes from the attachment men has to outer and inner things.
Did I mention that I have the tendency to drift off a lot during my stories?
I invite all the attendees to relax into the fact that nothing is under control. Just trust that Mother Earth below us and Heavenly Father above will nurture and guide us, if we allow ourselves to listen to them.
I always accompany my sessions with the most relevant music that I can find. Last time I put on Eminem’s ‘Lose yourself’ and tried to get everyone into their Warrior-mode; it will take courage to look behind you, to sat:”no more! I will take in this fight and own whatever traumas I might encounter. I will carry them with me no more!!!”
Then, with this mindset prepare for letting go through breath work, which I will explain in the next episode.
‘When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your true power is.’
End of Part I