“… the air is preparing us for life in the world of spirit much like the water prepared you to live in the world of air when you were in your mother’s womb…” – Larch Hanson
My mentor has been coaching me through aspects of breath work.
For anyone who isn’t familiar, or doesn’t know me well, I have been using tobacco since I was 18. My father always smoked cigarettes, as well as my grandfather who used pipe tobacco.
How does someone like that end up becoming curious into the esoteric and energetic practices of breathing techniques described in various spiritual traditions?
Obviously, many of us who have been caught by tobacco understand that at a certain point, we can feel the damage – even when we can’t feel like we are able to stop.
I reached that point several years ago, and since that time have been struggling to completely rid myself of the attachment to this tool; and yes, tobacco is a tool and it has a purpose that we purposefully seek out.
That doesn’t make it 100% safe, or even effectivefor its designed purpose. Chewing on the wild tobacco leaf is said to relax the mind and allow the imbiber spiritual sight and visions. While the modern world has completely lost touch with what may have once been held as a sacred medicine, clearly we are trying to achieve some form of relaxation through the inhalation of the farmed, processed, and cured leaf. It is simply another ‘white bread’ we have created – I’ll call it WonderLeaf.
The longest I have ever been tobacco free is probably around 6 months- casually dipping back in here or there for a smoke once and a while and then returning back to a clean slate, but sometimes falling off of sobriety completely and returning to several a day for a few weeks.
It’s no secret that smoke clogs the pores of the lungs, makes it hard to achieve full lung capacity, and reduces our ability for physical activity. I think every smoker and non-smoker alike understands that.
However, because it has been my way of aspiring towards respiring, a deeper and fuller breath, that I have not only been quitting.
I have also, accidentally, begun the practice.
My quest has become something more than simply ‘not smoking’ – my goals have been now for many years to fully and completely explore the depths of full and complete breathing – and believe me, there is MUCH to explore.
The emptying of the lungs, the clearing of restriction, and the centering on the core; the very impulse of life in our body, our breathing and our heartbeat – is the beginning of a miraculous journey into what exactly it means to be here, a living and breathing human being having the experience of life.
Breathing gives way to many things; among which I have found is a stillness of the mind and the emotions. A non-physical centering of the attention on the REAL moment at hand. A calming of the sometimes tumultuous position that the head and the heart can take up. Full and complete breaths take us out of the realm of the mind, where maybes and what-ifs create catastrophe and confusion, and our energy is spent planning for alternate realities that have no bearing on what is real, what is now, what is us. This tugs our heart and our emotions to these places; away from the peace and calm that comes with simply witnessing the moment.
As well, centered breath affects the NOWness that is our body. It allows us to break the barriers of restriction beyond the lungs, and find where our breath is blocked from more deeply entering our body.
You can visualize this as the flow of oxygenated blood meeting resistance against tight and strained form. How well does the blood in your body flow through all of your parts? Modern day ‘ yogis and yoginis ‘ know this well. If your vinyasa flow is halted, you better check back in with your breath. How well can you complete the movements and still breathe fully and completely? Sit in that posture for a while, and breathe until you notice the slight ebb and flow of that breath upon each of your parts, and then like sand on the shore allow the individual grains to flow back into the sea….
Also, how many of us remember the basic chemistry of cellular respiration? Do you realize that efficient uptake of your nutritional intake is almost 98% reliant on the amount of oxygen available? Your metabolism is an oxidative metabolism… you cannot rely on what you consume alone to be your blue pill of freedom towards absolute health. Our simple exhalation is also one of the most important ways we remove waste from our bodies. Remember this when you are doing your deep cleanses, your liver flushes, and your detox protocols. If you are doing it all without the breath, the most important piece is still missing.
If your breath is restricted, the feeling and ability that comes with a pure, deep breath, is outside of your range of perception. So when we are in the throes of tobacco addiction, or anything else that restricts our breathing, we have no idea what is lost to us. The energy, the freedom of movement, and the joy of a still heart are things that we may believe, idealize, or seek after, but it is not in our capacity to experience at the moment we have chosen to obscure our already perfect nature.
We must return to the breath, if we are to do anything. Respiration is the foundation that our whole entire existence rests on. This practice of emptying back to pure breath, puts one in touch with the concept of emptying and filling. The ebb and flow. The intake and outtake. The nature of change over time, of forces, and of intent and will to move a body through an environment.
Breathing properly fundamentally changes every other action and process we move through, moment by moment.
It will change the way you feel every piece of food you eat; it will change your understanding and awareness of each movement you take; it will bring you to a place of sensitivity that will reveal to you much more than I can…