In ancient times, there were the so-called spiritual men; they mastered the universe, and controlled yin and yang. They breathed the essence of life; they were independent in preserving their spirit, and their muscles and flesh remained unchanged. Therefore, they could enjoy a long life, just as there is no end to heaven and earth.
—THE YELLOW EMPEROR’S CLASSIC OF INTERNAL MEDICINE
Landing at the airport in Delhi in August 1980 was a culture shock, and a shock in many other ways. The heat was practically unbearable, and we found ourselves having to step over hundreds of people camped out on the floor of the arrival hall. My wife, Louise, and my two boys, Danny and Dennis, were with me on our way to Babaji’s ashram in Haidakhan. Meeting him was the most important part of becoming a Certified Rebirther in those days, because Leonard Orr believed that Babaji was the source and the inspiration for the rebirthing- breathwork movement. (Babaji is the legendary immortal yogi written about in The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, and meeting him in the flesh was the greatest blessing in my life.My shock intensified when I asked one of the airport workers where the toilet was. Cheerfully pointing behind me, he answered—and in one sentence as if there was a logical connection—“Sorry, sir, no toilet; but we have a Space Invaders game!” Sure enough, there it was against the wall near the closed toilet. As we made our way out to the street through the gauntlet of beggars and trinket sellers, and the barrage of rickshaw and taxi drivers vying for our business and tugging on our clothes and bags, I knew we were in for the adventure of our lives.I decided to take a deep breath and settle into my new surroundings, but as the dust and smoke, the stench of human waste, and who knows what else, filled my nose and lungs, I decided that maybe it was better not to breathe too much in this city. I learned how quickly I could adjust and adapt to uncomfortable things if I changed my focus, if I practiced acceptance. It really is amazing how comfortable we can become over time with almost anything, especially if we are not putting energy into resisting or complaining, as long as we are willing to surrender to what is—as it is. And that’s exactly what I was doing: practicing acceptance, using the experience and the situation to strengthen my spiritual muscles. I woke up the next morning, feeling quite at home in those strange surroundings. I went out to the garden and was greeted by my friend and teacher Leonard Orr. He asked me how I was doing, and I said “Great!” I really was feeling very good, unusually good, and for no apparent reason at all. “What are we doing today?” I asked. “Let’s go meet Indira Gandhi!” Thinking it was a joke, I played along: “Sure. Let’s go knock on the door of the White House!” “No, I’m serious,” he said. “Let’s go.” India, we were told, was a magical place, and I had already decided to surrender and go with the flow, so the two of us set out to find a taxi. Leonard told our driver that we wanted to meet the prime minister. “So you want to go to the prime minister’s office, then?” the taxi driver asked. I said “Yes, that’s right!” just to confirm that I was in on this crazy idea too. We ended up at a big government building, and then at a receptionist’s desk, talking to a clerk. He listened to our request and smiled politely as he wrote down our names. After a few minutes, he said thank you and told us to: “Please come back tomorrow at 8 A.M.” We arrived at exactly eight the next day and found a line of several hundred people stretching from the building entrance, down the street, and around the corner. I remember thinking: maybe she comes out every day and waves to people. We made our way to the end of the line and waited. After about thirty minutes, as the line kept growing longer and wider, I noticed an Indian man with a clipboard making his way along the row of people, shouting something. As he came closer, I realized that he was calling our names: “Dan Brulé? Leonard Orr?” Leonard raised his hand like he was taking an oath and I waved the guy over to us. He took us to the front of the line, in through the door, and to the same reception desk as the day before. Leading us to a room with a large conference table, he said: “Please wait here.” Leonard and I sat in silence. My six-year-old son Dennis sat on my lap, his legs dangling as he quietly played with my shirt collar. Two women from our group had also joined us on the adventure, and they were quietly whispering to each other. I heard Leonard take a soft, conscious breath, which reminded me to do the same. And in walked Indira Gandhi! “Good morning. Thank you so much for coming,” Mrs. Gandhi said. Would you like some water, or some tea?” At first, I was speechless; we were being greeted and waited on by the prime minister of India! She had such a warm demeanor and a genuine smile. Her skin glowed, and she was so relaxed and gracious. And her sari was perfectly white and without a single wrinkle. I started the conversation by saying: “This is so amazing! I have been trying to meet the president of the United States my whole life without success, and yet after only two days in the country, I am sitting with you.” “India is a magical place,” she said. She had come into the room carrying a stack of documents, signing them as we talked. We sat with her for more than forty-five minutes that day, discussing yoga and the schools in India, how they compared to the schools in America. As we sat there, I became obsessed with and focused on one thing: her breathing. There was something fascinating about it—it was so subtle, yet so alive. It felt like I was looking at breathing for the first time. I knew that our breathing expresses and reflects our changing thoughts and feelings, but I had never realized just how much it did so, or with such detail. As she made her way through the stack of documents, signing some, scribbling notes on others, I watched her fingers on the pen; I could feel it in her hand. I could feel the movement of her breath under her collarbones and the sensations of it. I began to mirror every breath she took, and as I did, I could feel what was happening within her. I was experiencing her thoughts and her emotions. I had such a powerful sense of certainty that I was experiencing a clear and unmistakable connection to the inner world of another being in a way I had never experienced before. Mrs. Gandhi’s breathing would change and move with each document she reviewed or studied. Sometimes her breath shot high in her chest in a dramatic way, and other times it was so subtle and light as to be barely perceptible. A few times it dropped deep into her lower belly with such force and power I thought she was about toget up; other times it settled there as if lightly coming home to rest. Sometimes her breath would speed up, and sometimes it would slow down— sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually. And sometimes she seemed to enter an endless pause as she studied some details or thought through an idea. I could tell when her attention moved on, because her breath did so in the same moment. Riding her breath from this conscious state, I could tell which documents were mere bureaucratic formalities that simply required her signature, and which ones moved her in a deeper way. For some, there was clearly no emotional investment, no thought of liking or not liking, and no change in her breathing. But then as she reviewed another one, her breath would pause, as if she was having second thoughts, thinking through her decision. Another time I got the clear feeling that she was conceding to something or someone in order to resolve an issue, an uncomfortable but necessary trade-off. Meanwhile she showed no changes on her face, in her posture, in the tone of her voice, or in our conversation. Only her breathing gave her away. For the first time, I really understood the value of Breath Awareness, knowing it with certainty on a cellular level. Maybe there was something special about her, or maybe I was more open somehow. In any case, in her presence I was able to access a deep sense of intuition, and since then, I have viewed breathing in a very different way. We all have remarkable inborn abilities waiting to be discovered or uncovered. Breathing is the key to bringing them alive in us. And so, now, let’s go deeper into the practice so you can experience some of these higher abilities for yourself.
Deepening Your Practice of Breath Awareness
In order to master the art and science of breathwork, you will need to develop a very conscious relationship with your breath by delving deeper into the practice of Breath Awareness, which I also call breath watching. This practice is the first and most important element in breathwork, the key and the first step toward breath mastery. Most of the time you are not conscious of your breathing. It’s happening
outside of your awareness. To compensate for this, reclaim greater awareness, and regain balance and stillness, begin to meditate on your breathing. We can practice Breath Awareness anytime, anywhere, for a moment or two, or for an hour or more. The more conscious we become of our breath, the more conscious
we become of everything: our thoughts and feelings, our habits and patterns, our posture, our behavior, other people’s energy, our surroundings, and so on. The more Breath Awareness you have, the more benefits you will get from the breathing exercises or techniques in this book. Commit to putting aside some time for breath watching. Ten minutes is good. Twenty minutes is better. See that you won’t be disturbed or interrupted. Be sure to leave some time for yourself afterward, to move and stretch, write in your journal, enjoy a cup of tea, or do something else that you love. Do not underestimate the value of this simple practice. It has profound benefits, both immediate and long term.
Breath Now: Breath Awareness Practice
The main thing about the practice of Breath Awareness is that you are not doing the breathing. You are not breathing in any particular way. You are allowing the breath to come and go by itself, the way it wants. You are letting the body breathe itself. You’re just an impartial observer, a detached witness. You are watching and feeling the breath breathe you. If the breath moves through your nose, focus your attention on the feelings and sensations at the tip of your nose as the air passes in and out. If you are breathing through your mouth, notice the feelings and sensations of the air as it passes over your lips and tongue, cooling the roof of your mouth and swirling in your throat. You can also focus on the feelings and sensations in your chest or belly as the breath moves in and out. In other words, you can track the breathing moment to moment by being aware of what the breath touches and what moves in your body when you breathe. When your mind wanders, and it will; when you get caught up in thinking, and you will; or when something else pulls your attention away, simply and gently come back to your breathing: focus totally on your next breath. Don’t get angry or frustrated with yourself or your restless monkey mind; simply return to watching the breath. After the exercise, review your experience. What feelings, sensations, or movements did you notice? Where? How would you describe or characterize your breathing pattern: slow, quick, deep, shallow, smooth, chaotic, forced, natural, effortless?
If breathing is the language of the soul, if your breathing reflects and expresses your relationship to life, what does your breathing pattern tell you about yourself, the state of your being, and your attitude toward life? Do this practice daily, as part of your morning ritual. And take it into your daily activities. Stop from time to time during the day and simply observe your breathing.
How do you breathe when—
someone is insulting you? someone is praising you? a problem has you going around and around in your head? you are conscious of your heart space? you are angry, afraid, or upset? you feel peaceful, loving, and kind? you are putting a key in a door? you are trying to remember something? you are late and stuck in traffic? you are trying to solve a math problem? you are enjoying music? you are in pain? you are having an orgasm? you are approaching a serious encounter or an important event? you are dealing with intense emotions or a stressful experience? nothing is going your way? you are in the flow, when you are in the zone? Begin to pay attention, not only to your own breathing but also to the breathing in others: people you meet in public and in private, those with whom you work and play. Pay attention to their breath when they speak, move, complain, celebrate, watch TV, listen to music. Notice their breathing when they are angry, nervous, embarrassed. We often learn a lot about ourselves by observing others.
The breath is often overlooked and underestimated in our search for the source and meaning of life. Yet the Bible tells us clearly: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). I don’t want to get too religious on you here, but you can deepen your connection to the source of life in you, or even find your way back to God if you have become lost, by turning to the breath . . . You can awaken to what is referred to in Hebrew as neshemet ruach chayim: “the spirit of life within the breath.” The fact is there is something more to the air that we breathe than just the air. It is the life-giving principle that is both contained within and can be expressed through the breath. Many languages use the same word for air, wind, or breath as they do for life, vital energy, spirit, or the animating principle of life: chi, ki, prana, and energy. This inner breath runs through body, mind, and soul. A Course in Miracles, by the Foundation for Inner Peace, a book about spiritual transformation, teaches us that: “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible, it is necessary.” I believe that this universal experience is the breath, is breathing.13 Spiritual breathing is to psychosomatic illness what penicillin is to infection. Spiritual breathing is the quickest way to clear your head, settle your stomach, calm your nerves, and open your heart. It will uplift you, center you, and ground you in your being. Spiritual breathing opens your heart to love and fills your body with light and life. The breath is the fire of the heart—the heart of love. The Quakers have a wonderful tradition. At their Sunday service, people simply sit in silence and meditation, waiting, open to inspiration. And when it comes, when the spirit moves them, they speak. They say their piece (peace). They also believe that now and then we need to open all the doors and windows of our heart and soul, and let the spirit of God blow through us. Breathwork is a spiritual technology of awakening. When you work with the breath, you automatically develop a sense of spirituality and spiritual abilities. On the physical, material level we have solids, liquids, and gases. To play with breath is to play with the subtlest form of matter. That’s why people who have mastered spiritual breathing can accomplish so much on the level of subtle energies. Spiritual breathing makes it clear that the original creative life force energy that built our bodies in the womb is still available to us, to maintain and even rebuild the body. Yoga is the science of union (with God). And yoga holds as a central truth that breath is the connection, the bridge, between mind and body, between the visible and the invisible. Breath connects us to each other, and it connects all of us to God, nature, and existence. Each of us must walk our own unique path. And that is the empowering aspect of breathwork: no one can do it for you! Every breath we take can be a prayer, an invitation, and a genuine demonstration of our faith. Every breath can be an active expression of trust, or forgiveness, or gratitude. We are all breathing the same breath. The breath that is in me now was in someone else earlier, and it will be in the bird flying overhead tomorrow. It was in the dog walking down the street yesterday. This is not just a pretty philosophy; it is a fact. We literally share the same breath with everyone who has ever lived and breathed on this earth. Some of the same atoms and molecules of air that were breathed by Jesus, Moses, and Buddha are flowing through you and me right now. If you really want to touch the deepest realities of life, and to reach the highest states of consciousness, then you will have to awaken to the breath. It is the path, the doorway, and the connection to your essence, your core, and your soul. I like to think that there is an angel of breath at work on the planet. This angel brings fire and light to everyone on the spiritual path. Evolutionary contractions in the form or natural disasters, social upheaval, wars, and rumors of wars aredoing the work of pushing spiritual seekers out of their comfort zone and into the dynamic working zone of spiritual awakening, purification, and rebirth. I believe everyone is born a spiritual master. But we forget, we lose touch with our essence, our purpose, and our source. You can begin to incorporate the life of spirit back into your body and mind simply by breathing in a conscious way. Practice breathing in ways that are peaceful, accepting, trusting, loving, grateful, forgiving, inviting, and surrendering. Incorporating these attributes with spiritual breathing makes manifesting them in reality easy and effortless. More than knowing, believing, or doing it, when you are breathing it, you are living it. You are being it. Opening and relaxing the breath is like opening the doors to your soul. Use your breath to allow every fiber of your being to be bathed in the life force that flows from the source. Spiritual breathing has been called a biological experience of divine energy, a cellular experience of God. It takes courage to live a unique and inspired life. It requires that you turn to
your own inner truth, which is reflected and expressed with every breath you take. Breathing is like a language: “the language of the soul.” And you need to begin to communicate with your soul in the only language that it knows: the language of the heart and love. It takes courage to follow your heart and walk your own path. There is such a powerful illusion of security in following the crowd, or in following the way of the great ones. But if you are walking someone else’s path, you are walking the wrong path. It doesn’t matter how great the one was who created the path, or how many millions of people believe it is the right one. At some point you will need to walk alone. Your only companion, your only guide, will be your own breath. Spiritual breathing can take you to the eye of the storm in your life. Spiritual breathing can help you to balance yin and yang, peace and power, rhythm and harmony. You can learn about yourself from the breath itself. Through Conscious Breathing, you can learn to follow your bliss! The ultimate benefits of spiritual breathing may seem inconceivable to many people. For example, Leonard Orr, the father of Rebirthing Breathwork, believes that it actually offers us a path to physical immortality, to biological immortality. Conscious Breathing, he says, is a way that we can begin to include the physical body into the eternal life of the spirit. I have a hunch that he’s on to something. Leonard has written many books over the years. They are all in my library. One of the most fascinating is Breaking the Death Habit.14 Whatever your aspirations are, however lofty or mundane, theoretical or practical, you can’t miss by turning to the breath. You can’t go wrong by inviting God, or your own spirit, or life itself, to take part in your mission. Feel the sensations of breath, the movement of life in you. Be a witness. Pay attention to what is happening inside of you in each moment. Add to that the willingness to let go, to surrender. And then begin to conspire with the life force that surrounds and permeates everything in existence. Breathe this life force consciously. Feel the expansion and contraction of that life. Celebrate the presence and flow of that life in you, as you. Marvel at the miracle of life and open to the mystery of life that can be revealed to you with each breath. Seek out others who are committed to breath mastery. Share your experience. We all have to walk our own path, but we can walk together with others for a time. My burning belief is that no one is free until we are all free. And whenever any one of us becomes totally free, we make it that much easier for everyone else to become liberated! We are all connected, so we help ourselves best when we serve others, and we help others most when we serve ourselves. Consciously breathe peace and love, freedom and safety, energy and aliveness, love and light. Watch the world within you and the world around you change forever! Spiritual breathing is the name of my favorite practice, my idea of the highest application of breathwork. It’s based on the fact that whenever energy and consciousness come together, something is created. That is the creative process: bringing together energy and consciousness. Spiritual breathing means joining the breath with every creative and functional aspect of ourselves—using everything at our disposal. It’s about being total. “One pointedness” is an important principle I first learned from aikido, a Japanese martial art. It means bringing mind and body together. When we do that, a powerful force emerges. That’s how martial artists break bricks, and how skinny little old guys can throw big strong young guys around the room with ease. With spiritual breathing, we bring together body, mind, and breath, and as a result, an even greater force emerges: a healing, creative force for transformation and evolution. Everything begins in consciousness. The computer I am using right now began as an idea in someone’s head. Look around. Almost everything that you can see or touch in the physical world first took form in someone’s consciousness, and from there, with faith and passion, determination and action, it found its way out into physical reality and into your world. Some people would say that the entire physical universe, and that nature itself, along with you and me and everything that exists, began as a thought, a desire, an idea, in the mind of God.The more passion, enthusiasm, and focused energy and awareness we bring to whatever we imagine or desire or intend to do, the more likely we will create it, attract it, or do it. Spiritual breathing is about focusing on a high spiritual principle, and then pouring as much passion as we can into it with every breath. In spiritual breathing, the goal is to make each breath as thick and juicy as we can, as wholesome and delicious and delightful as possible. It means bringing every level of our being into the moment-to-moment practice and process of Conscious Breathing. There are five levels of being or forms of expression that we can bring consciously to each breath: thoughts, images, sounds, movement, and emotions. They are ways you can be creative with your breathwork practice. Play with them now.
1. Thoughts: These can include words, phrases, affirmations, statements, mantras, prayers. Mentally repeat a high-frequency word or phrase with each breath. For example: “love,” “I am loved, I am loving”; “peace,” “I am peaceful”; “joy,” “I radiate joy”; “health,” “I am healthy”; “freedom,” “I am always already free.” Choose any beautiful word or phrase, and breathe the energy and feeling of it into every cell of your body.
2. Images: Create pictures in your mind, visual representations of the words or phrases you are focusing on. Imagine the face of your beloved or a beautiful scene, or imagine a bright light or a beautiful color that fits the word or phrase that you have chosen. Images of loved ones, family, friends, teachers, and students; their smiles, their words, their energy come to me when I focus on love and peace and joy.
3. Sounds: Children love to make sounds when they are playing or imagining something. Use breath sounds (oooh . . . ahhhh . . . eeeehh . . . ohhh . . . mmmm . . . ssshhh . . . aum . . . vrroom). Make any enjoyable sound that resonates with the image or thought that you are playing with while you breathe. Breath sounds . . . wind noises . . . ocean noises . . .
4. Movement: Move your body in some pleasurable way. Use your body to express and reflect what you are feeling and imagining while you breathe. Do something with your fingers, hands, and arms; your head, neck, eyes, spine, toes. Let the breath move your body, and let your body move the breath.
5. Emotions: In the same way that you can generate a thought, an image, a sound, or a movement, you can generate an emotion. Put feeling into the process. Gratitude is a very powerful emotion, and we don’t even need a reason to generate it. Be dramatic in your expression. Send a clear message to your subconscious. Leave no doubt to anyone who may be watching that you are enjoying something amazingIn what other ways can you bring the totality of your being into each breath? Begin breathing, and then strive to bring in as much of your body, mind, heart, and soul as you can to the process. Infuse each breath with the highest, most beautiful, powerful thoughts, images, sounds, movements, and emotions you can conjure up. Be total and spontaneous. Be creative. Be passionate. Open yourself to ecstasy!
BREATHE NOW: SPIRITUAL BREATHING PRACTICE
The power of spiritual breathing lies in its simplicity: just add a little stretch to your inhale. Consciously expand your in-breath a bit more than usual. Gently take in a deeper, fuller breath than normal. And then deliberately let go into a long, soothing sigh of relief. As you exhale, feel yourself or imagine yourself dropping down into your center—as if you are leaving the surface and settling into a deeper part of yourself. Leave behind what you think, how you feel, what you do. Let go of the mundane world, your daily activities, your habits and patterns, your routines. Just for a moment, let go of your thoughts about right and wrong, should and shouldn’t, must and must not . . . Drop down to a place before and beyond your conditioning. Let go of your history, the past . . . And at the same time, feel your borders softening . . . Imagine the boundaries of your body dissolving . . . Imagine or feel yourself radiating light from your heart, like the sun . . . expanding outward . . . merging with everything and everyone . . . Dropping down, to settle into your center, while also expanding and radiating outward to merge with everything and everyone. We are bigger than we think. We are greater than we have been led to believe. As you breathe, give yourself permission to sense that you are an infinite eternal being. The cosmos is within us as well as around us. We are all connected. There is only one life, one energy, one being in the universe—one being, being you and me. We can use the breath to experience the state of non duality, to escape the illusion of separation. It might be important to note here that language is extremely important and useful, but it can also be quite limiting, and it can even put us in a mental trap. Some things are difficult, if not impossible, to put into words. That’s why in breathwork we focus on feelings, we focus on the heart. Every cell in your body thinks that it is an individual separate entity unto itself, and it is: it moves by itself, takes in food and excretes waste, communicates with other cells, and yet it is part of an organ. And that organ thinks it is a separate individual thing, and it is: your heart is not your kidney, your kidney is not your liver. And yet these organs are part of a system, and that system thinks it is unique and individual and separate, and yet that system is part of a larger one . . . And on and on it goes forever. On the other hand, if you look into a single cell, you will find smaller particles. Crack those open, and you find even smaller ones, and on and on it goes forever. You are part of an endless eternal infinite reality. You are that reality.
BREATHE NOW: MERGING WITH EXISTENCE
Imagine that when you inhale, the breath travels to you from somewhere beyond the universe, it flows to you from across time and space. It flows through you, and when you exhale it continues on its eternal cosmic journey. When you breathe in, imagine that the breath also arises from within you, from the center of every cell in your body. Let your borders dissolve. Let your ego dissolve. Don’t try to wrap your mind around this practice. Get into your heart. Be like a child, be imaginative, be creative. Merge with existence. Welcome to spiritual breathing!
Introduction to Rebirthing Breathwork
I’ve mentioned my friend Leonard Orr, the creator and founder of the worldwide Rebirthing Breathwork movement. He has spent over forty years of his life spreading the healing power of this technique, which is also known as “connected breathing.” Rebirthing is a direct road to spiritual breakthroughs, opening you up to an extraordinarily liberating energy experience. And because I have experienced so many amazing results with this technique, I really have to share a bit more, an offering to whet your curiosity and hopefully encourage you to explore it on your own. Since practicing this technique for even a few minutes can trigger a powerful healing or transformational process, sometimes it’s best to have a coach, facilitator, or at least a breathing buddy nearby when you experiment. The Rebirthing Breathwork technique is as simple as it is powerful. Here are the basics: the inhale is active and the exhale is passive. Pull the inhale in consciously and let the exhale go quickly and completely (the key phrase here is “let go”). There are no pauses or gaps between the inhale and the exhale, between the exhale and the inhale. No holding, no hesitating. The breaths are connected in a smooth, steady rhythm. Once you begin, breathe continuously: inhale merging with the exhale, exhale blending seamlessly into the next inhale. The breath is turning like a wheel. Just keep breathing and relaxing into and through whatever you feel, whatever comes up. From time to time, you can take a long, expansive inhale and give yourself a big, exaggerated sigh of relief, then go right back into the connected rhythm. Use the same channel to breathe through. That is, breathe either in and out the nose or in and out the mouth, but do not breathe in the nose and out the mouth.
Breathing with Ram Dass
Ram Dass is the author of Be Here Now, Journey of Awakening, Grist for the Mill, among others. Over the years, through his life and his work, and because of him, millions of Americans have discovered Eastern philosophy and spirituality, yoga and meditation. I’m happy and grateful to say that I am one of them. One day while in X-ray school, I overheard a conversation in the cafeteria at Boston City Hospital about a Harvard professor who had gone to India and found a guru. When he came back, he walked around the Harvard University campus wearing an Indian robe, with mala beads around his neck, chanting mantras. Talk about far out! His name was Dr. Richard Alpert, but he was now known as Ram Dass (He said his father jokingly referred to him as Rum Dum!). Ram Dass would be giving a talk that night in Cambridge, and I decided on the spot that I had to meet him. After work, still dressed in my hospital greens, I found myself in the basement of the Harvard Bookstore, which had a New Age hippie, churchlike atmosphere. The room was packed. In order to get in, I had to disturb the last three rows of devotees who were piously sitting in meditation. Once I was able to squeeze in and close the door behind me, I realized that I was the only one standing, the only one not sitting in the lotus position, the only one not looking appropriately spiritual. The smell of incense filled the air. I felt so weird and out of place. I felt trapped. Ram Dass had stopped talking when I distracted everyone with my noisy entrance. After a few moments, he resumed speaking softly and slowly, and his talk . . . was filled . . . with . . . pregnant . . . pauses. Catching his words and letting the meaning sink in was like impatiently waiting for filtered coffee to be ready: drip . . . drip . . . drip . . . I like instant coffee, from a drive-through window! My mind was racing, and at the same time I was bored to death with all this silly divine love “woo-woo” and guru nirvana enlightenment stuff! Yet he felt very sincere to me so I was trying to catch what he was saying, but all I could hear was my own mental chatter—my mind reacting to everything he said. I was restless, fidgeting constantly, shifting from one foot to the other. I wanted a cigarette! I began to hope that someone would try to push open the door behind me so I could let them in and make my escape. I was torturing myself. To make things worse, Ram Dass kept interrupting his talk to eat grapes. And he couldn’t just eat the damn grapes. No! He had to pick up each one very slowly, and he had to deliberately turn it in his fingers and look at it ever so lovingly. He had to bring it slowly to his lips and chew it ever so carefully; and then with his eyes closed, swallow it, blissfully feeling it slowly slide down his throat. I was getting to the point where I simply couldn’t bear it. Disturb everyone or not, I had to get the hell out of there! My mind supported and encouraged me: “Yes, let’s go home,” it said. “You’ll never see any of these people again anyway, so who cares if you disturb them?” In that very moment, Ram Dass looked directly at me. I felt like a deer caught in his headlights! He began to speak directly to me, or so it seemed. It was over forty-five years ago, and yet it feels like yesterday. I remember every word he said: “You were born at this time, in this place, in this family, in this socioeconomic setting . . .” Then he reached for a grape! My breathing stopped as he took forever to eat that freakin’ grape! And it only started again when he finished his sentence: “. . . for a purpose.” Then he went on to say what he later wrote in his book: “And everything you do, everything that happens to you, is grist for the mill of realizing that purpose.” Then he said, “Let’s do this: when you breathe in, think to yourself, ‘The power of God is within me,’ and when you breathe out, think to yourself, ‘The grace of God surrounds me.’ Breathing in: ‘the power of God is within me,’ and breathing out: ‘the grace of God surrounds me.’ ” Driving home that night on the Southeast Expressway, it wouldn’t stop, and I couldn’t shut it off. It was impossible to breathe without remembering those words, and impossible to remember those words without breathing. I was suddenly back in the first-grade classroom, and God was breathing into me. Those words reawakened in me the glorious feelings from that day with the pastor. Thank you, Rum Dum! I will always love you, and I will always be grateful.
BREATHE NOW: UNITING THOUGHT AND INTENTION
Take the time to focus on what is most important to you. Focus on what gives you the most wonderful feeling. Put that into a word or a phrase or a sentence and begin to breathe it into every cell of your body. Be creative! Breathe your intention. Take five minutes right now to do this exercise. Use the phrases that Ram Dass suggested. Or create or choose your own empowering statement, affirmation, declaration, wish, or prayer. Choose your own soothing or strengthening words. Make sure the words you choose lift you up or calm you down. Make sure they inspire or motivate you to be your best; bring you peace; are wonderful thoughts and beautiful feelings. Make sure you are creating or inviting a reality that you can live with forever; that you are breathing as you do this thinking process. And make sure you let yourself feel the feelings that these words bring up in you. What are the most beautiful words you could speak to yourself? What are the most beautiful words you could speak to someone else? What do you wish for yourself and for the world? What are your highest aspirations? What is your heart’s grandest desire? What is your purpose, your mission in life? What is your fondent dream? A heartfelt intention fueled by the power of the breath can change everything. This is a creative process. You are bringing together consciousness and energy, thought and action: this is the essence of creativity. Be careful what you think about while you breathe, because every breath you take gives life force energy to what you hold in consciousness. As they say: “thought is creative,” and “thoughts become things.
Vipassana and Insight Meditation
Ram Dass originally turned me on to Buddhist meditation, and Milton Young, my mentor at UMass Dartmouth, inspired me to dive deep into the practice, convincing me to do a number of intensive vipassana meditation retreats. It was just what I needed as I tried to get my footing after leaving the military. And I was fortunate to live within driving distance of the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, Massachusetts. I studied with Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg, and that led me to meeting the venerable Ajahn Chah. Looking back now, I realize what a rare opportunity, what a blessing it was to study and practice with such a great master and to be guided by such powerful, sincere, and genuine spiritual teachers so early in my learning process. Vipassana meditation is a simple technique where you sit quietly and watch your breath. While sitting for hours on end paying attention to your breath gives you sore knees and a sore butt, it can also result in powerful spiritual breakthroughs. The practice is like training a wild monkey. You put a collar on it, give it a short leash and tie it to a post. It kicks and screams and tries everything to break free and run wild. But after some time it, it gives up, lets go, and learns to sit still. Then you don’t even need the post and leash anymore. Vipassana is monkey-mind training. I am so grateful to my teachers, and to myself, for practicing it long enough to come out of the dark tangled jungle of my head and into the bright inner sky of my heart. I cannot recommend vipassana meditation enough. Deciding to practice it was one of the wisest decisions I ever made. It still helps me at every step on my path of breath mastery. As with any spiritual practice involving a lineage, it’s a good idea to get as close to the source of it as possible. So, I suggest you do a Google search, consult with your intuition, and choose a teacher with a long history of practice in this
method, and then dive into it fully. You will be glad you did. Here’s the practice: sit comfortably but erect in a chair or on a cushion. Turn your attention to the breath, to the feelings and sensations of the air coming in and going out. Nothing to do: just observing, just being consciously aware of your breathing. When your mind wanders—and it will—just return your attention to the breathing. Simple. Do this mindfulness practice for ten or twenty minutes right now, and make it a regular practice.
Awaken Your Intuition
Some people talk about intuition as a feeling, or sometimes an inner voice. Many people wonder how to differentiate between our intuitive voice and the voice inour head, the difference between our heart and our mind, between natural wisdom and rational mental chatter. Fortunately, that is one of the most beautiful benefits of breathwork: it gives us a way to know and feel the difference. Imagine a horse and rider. To become an expert rider, you have to learn to work with the horse, learn its personality and build trust. When we come into harmony with the horse, our ride is smooth and graceful. When we fight it or are out of sync, the ride hurts, it’s tiring, and it is a mutual struggle. You are either in the flow with the horse or not. When a rider and a horse are in tune, when they flow together, it’s an exhilarating experience, and it’s beautiful and even thrilling to behold. When you learn to ride the breath, when you can flow with it, when you are in tune with it, you have established a real and practical connection to your intuition. There’s no confusion, and there’s no faking it: your ride is smooth and in sync. You have a clear sense of having effortlessly harnessed a tremendous power. You respond to that power, and that power responds to you. The rider can sense what the horse needs, and the horse responds to the rider’s subtlest wishes. The relationship is beautiful; it’s awesome. When we breathe in, air comes from the outside into our lungs, but something else happens: energy seems to rise up from within us and it fills us. It feels like the surge of an ocean. We have a sense of relaxing and opening and giving space to this energy. When this happens, we are coming into harmony with our intuition, and it feels as if the breath is breathing us! When we develop this kind of relationship with the breath, we find ourselves in the right place at the right time, doing and saying the right things in the right way. Intuition is a sense of being in the zone, or in the flow, in a state of oneness, of clarity and simple ease. The best athletes and artists, the greatest musicians and soldiers know this state very well. They may or may not be conscious of it at the time, but when they are performing at their peak, energy is rising up from within them, flowing through them from beyond, and it is being effortlessly directed perfectly from within, with ease and grace.
BREATHE NOW: THE DANCE OF BREATH
When you are breathing intuitively, it feels like a dance. You and the breath are one. Yes, there is a leader and a follower, but when the partners are in the flow, that distinction seems to disappear. As you breathe in, feel the breath wanting to open, stretch, and expand you. Move with the breath. Deliberately relax and open and give it space. You are being a good dance partner. Now notice that when you open and relax yourself during the inhale, the breath, like a good dance partner, pours into you and fills the spaces that you create. Notice that just creating a bit of space between your teeth allows air to pour in more easily and more freely. Pull the air into yourself with the inhale, but also imagine pulling it, or letting it rise up from within you at the same time. Let these two movements or air and energy meet in your heart—the seat of your intuition. And on the exhale relax and let go completely. Drop down into your center and expand and radiate out beyond your borders at the same time. Maintain as much of that open relaxation as you can as you take in the next breath. Feel yourself opening and expanding and giving space to the breath and energy. Feel yourself letting go and dropping down, surrendering to the flow. As you breathe, play with speed, volume, rate, and intensity. And remember to keep relaxing and letting go. Are you breathing the breath, or is the breath breathing you? Get lost in that dance!
Spiritual Energy in Breathwork
When people talk about energy, I often wonder what they are really talking about. We know about prana, chi, ki, life force, and spirit. This is the energy in the breath that we are learning to feel, tap, move, and direct with our breath. Is this what they are talking about? When people say they feel energy, that they are sensitive to energy, what do they really mean? Here is my understanding: When a boat moves through water, it makes waves. When you feel those waves, are you feeling the boat? When energy moves through the body and mind, it makes waves: feelings and sensations, thoughts, and images. When you experience these things, are you experiencing the energy? No, you are experiencing the waves the energy makes when it passes through you. You are experiencing the reactions of your mind-body system to the energy. When people tell me that they are very sensitive, I often wonder, are they really sensitive, or are they simply hyperreactive? It seems to me that as long as your body and mind are reacting, you cannot really be sensitive. It is not until the body and mind stop reacting that we are able to experience the energy directly. Not until we stop reacting can we be truly sensitive. That’s why in breathwork we practice three fundamental spiritual principles:
Sound familiar? These principles were taught by the Buddha and by many other awakened ones. They represent a spiritual antidote to the causes of suffering. I spent many years practicing nonjudgment, nonresistance, and nonattachment. It is still an ongoing practice.Then one day I realized that all three of these things were reactions. Judging is a reaction, resistance is a reaction, and attachment is a reaction. So here is a shortcut: practice nonreaction. I have distilled my practice down to nonreaction. This is one of the secrets of breath mastery as well as self-mastery, and it may be the key to self-realization and ultimate liberation. There is a beautiful analogy related to consciousness during breathwork, and that is the analogy of water. We could ask: “What would Jesus do?” Or “What would love do?” Or we could ask: “What would water do?” When you throw a stone in a river or a pond, the water reacts perfectly. It doesn’t overreact, and it doesn’t underreact. Our goal is to have that kind of mind and that kind of body. Moreover, water has two very interesting properties: it is transparent and it is reflective. I can see through the water to the bottom; I can see the fish midway down. I can also see myself reflected on the surface of the water. That is, if the water is pure and still, calm and unmoving. This is the kind of consciousness that we need to develop. And breathwork gives us a way of doing exactly that: developing that high, refined, expanded, and sublime quality of consciousness. As you have noticed, I use the terms “awareness” and “consciousness” very often and interchangeably, as if they are synonymous. I’m sure some would argue that they are not, and they may be correct, but to a great extent, for our purposes, they are the same. I heard a story many years ago about two of my favorite teachers: the Buddha and Patanjali. We already know quite a bit about the Buddha. Patanjali may not be as well known. He is considered to be the father of yoga. He did not invent yoga, but he took all the yogic wisdom of his day and organized it into a system called the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali and the Buddha never met. They came from different cultures and different times, but they were clearly spiritual cousins, even brothers. Both the Buddha and Patanjali had the same mission in life: to find the cause and the cure of suffering. And if you look at the list of the causes of suffering that the Buddha identified, and compare it to the list that Patanjali gave us, you will find that they are practically identical. They also arrived at a very similar list of cures, or ways to end suffering. I think this is very important. When two sublime teachers with no cultural or historic or personal connection arrive at the same truths, we should take note. They each walked, followed, and created their own unique paths, yet both ended up in the same exalted state. Something else about these two teachers is also amazing to me. They both used the same metaphor to describe the work we need to do on the level of consciousness. They both used the same analogy to describe the process and the practice. They talked about a “perfect gem,” a “flawless jewel.”Not only did they arrive at the same insights and offer the same solutions, they even used the same analogy to describe the inner work! What are the odds of that? They each said that consciousness must be like “a pure flawless diamond.” And they said that our consciousness needs to be purified to that extent. Then and only then can it lead to an awakening. As long as our consciousness is dull or controlled by ego, as long as it is full of waves and
particles, as long as it is pushed and pulled, or influenced by fear, anger, desire,
and so on, it cannot be trusted. I use the analogy of a fun house mirror. You know.the kind that when you stand in front of them make you look tall and skinny with a little pin head, or short and fat with a big old butt! Imagine someone standing there and crying,
believing that what they were seeing was real or true. You would laugh at them.
You would say: “Don’t be silly. That’s not how you look. That’s not who you
are! What you are seeing is the effect of a warped mirror.” That is the problem
we have with our consciousness. We look out at the world, or we look at ourselves, we see suffering, limitation, disease, or negativity. But maybe we are not seeing reality at all. Maybe what we see is due to our warped consciousness. That’s why we need to do our inner work. That’s why we need to quiet and clear our minds; that’s why we need to deepen our awareness, to raise and expand our consciousness. And breathwork is a perfect way to do that. I believe that the Buddha and Patanjali would agree with me here. According to their teachings, they seemed to agree with each other on just about everything. Everything, that is, except one thing. It could be a difference in personal philosophy, or it may simply be a language problem. Maybe they were trying to put something into words that words cannot capture. My two spiritual buddies seemed to disagree about these two concepts: “consciousness” and “awareness.” We tend to think of them as pretty much synonymous, and in fact, the Buddha said they were one and the same, no different. But Patanjali said that they were anything but the same. To him, they could not be more different. To understand the difference, we can use the analogy of a TV set or a movie screen. Everything that happens on the screen is what we could call the realm of “consciousness.” But a TV or a movie screen cannot watch itself. This requires a separate “awareness,” something external to or apart from consciousness. Patanjali taught that consciousness was subject to the same laws and dynamics as everything else in nature. Awareness, on the other hand, was not. It was utterly free and not bound in any way to the forces and dynamics and laws thatcontrol everything else in nature and the phenomenal world. And this awareness, he said, is who we really are. I tend to agree because breathwork—spiritual breathing—tends to open us to a direct experience of that state of pure awareness, to that “real true self.” In the Song of Solomon, we find these beautiful words: “Breathing restores me to my exact self.” The promise of breathwork—here I’ll use the term “breath mastery”—is that it can lead you to a place deep within, to an original, essential being that has never been touched or affected in any way by anything that has happened to you in this world. It is always already pure, still, innocent, and infinitely powerful. Nothing can affect it. Nothing can influence it. Nothing can disturb it in any way: not pain, not fatigue, not fear, not trauma, not love. Nothing, no one, not even you, can influence this place of pure awareness. It is like a space from which everything arises or occurs. The space doesn’t care what fills it: a saint, a sinner, a chair, a flower, my body, or the MacBook on my lap. The space is just a space. This spaciousness is the “exact self” that is referred to in the Song of Solomon and it is that unconditional awareness that Patanjali talked about. Spiritual breathing is meant to awaken us to this space of pure awareness. We realize that as one of my early teachers said, “I am always already free.” We realize that “nothing is happening to me, it is just happening.” Breathwork teaches us that everything that happens in life is happening for us, not to us. We learn in breathwork that we don’t need to do anything about what happens in us. We don’t have to judge it or understand it, or fix it, or control it. We don’t have to resist or manage or change anything about it. We can simply let what is be as it is. We can let ourselves and everything be just as it is. We don’t need to resist, judge, attach to anything. In fact, when we stop resisting, attaching, judging, reacting, this space of pure awareness opens up in us, or we open up to it, and we wake up free and at home for the first time to our real true self, to our own infinite eternal being. Returning to water and consciousness: every thought, every feeling or sensation, every emotion, is another wave or a particle in consciousness. It is like a fun house mirror, and you can’t trust it. Only when our consciousness is still and pure can we see through it to what is really real, and only then can we can see what’s reflected in it, who we really are. I think that is the real work, the highest purpose of breathwork. It seems to me that Jesus was also kin to the Buddha and Patanjali. He taught the power of love. He called love the first law of life. To me, love is that space of pure awareness and unmoving presence: love’s what’s left open and inviting when we let go of all our “stuff” or when it all falls away. We know that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and that most of the original Aramaic language texts have been lost or destroyed over time. I am told that many of the original writings that still exist are in private collections, or locked up somewhere, maybe in the basement of the Vatican. Or maybe that is just a rumor. In any case, I think it is safe to assume that much has been lost in the translation of Jesus’ teachings, and some very important things have been twisted, corrupted, deliberately hidden, or simply misunderstood. For example, I learned from Michael Ryce, the author of Why Is This Happening to Me, Again?, that the word “sin” in the Aramaic language is kata, which is the word Jesus used when he referred to what we now all call and understand as “sin.” Back in Jesus’ day, the word “kata” was used in archery, and when an archer missed the mark, the judge would shout “Kata!” which simply means “You missed the mark!”15 Think about that: when Jesus said that someone had sinned, he was saying that they simply missed the mark. Nothing to do with evil. There is no need for fire and hell and brimstone; all that is required is to adjust our sights. There is also an expression in the Aramaic language that can be found in no other language. And it is said that Jesus used this expression: “A mind without love is stupid.” No wonder He said that love was the first law of life! The point is that we suffer from the same problem. We are missing the mark, we are missing the point. It’s not about sin, punishment, or wrongdoing. It’s about the dimension of love. Without love we are blind. Without love we are deaf. Without love we are stupid. Without love we are dumb and numb to the truth of our being, to the truth of life and reality.
The Dimension of Love
Breathwork—spiritual breathing—awakens the dimension of love in us. If I look at the world without eyes of love, I will not see what is really there. If I look at you without eyes of love, I will not see who you really are. If I look at myself without eyes of love, I will not see who I am. This love is very important in breathwork. We need to meet and greet everything we encounter on our inner journey with love. And that love can be expressed perfectly with the breath by opening and expanding, and by relaxing and letting go. Love shines through when we let go of fear, control, judgments, resistance, and attachments. Love is a space of pure awareness and presence. It is what is left when everything else falls away. Wanting is not loving. Needing is not loving. Expecting or demanding is not loving. Thinking is not loving. Doing is not loving. Well, of course love is in and around all these things, and it can be expressed through them, but . . . And that’s a big but! We all have a biocomputer, what Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, of the School of Thinking and the author of Software for Your Brain, calls our “neck-top computer.” It has hardware and software, and comes loaded with an operating system. Some of the hardware, some of those programs, and the operating system are quite old and need to be upgraded. Dr. Gleeson talks about Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato; he calls them the “original hackers”—thinking hackers. They created and installed software programs that are still running in our brains today.16 Gleeson talks about the “Plato Virus.” This virus infects brain users all over the planet, and it is based on the concept of “absolute truth.” We forget, he says, that these are just concepts, and a mind that is dominated by this way of thinking gets bogged down. This right-wrong, good-bad, us-them way of thinking has been used to initiate and justify every war and every form of violence in the world for more than two thousand years. It is a useful way of thinking, and yet it represents only one type of thinking. The concept of good and bad is divisive. It is violent. It may be violence of thought, but it is violence nonetheless. Gleeson offers an upgrade to this ancient software program. Instead of “good and bad,” he suggests “good and better.” Feel that: “Good . . . Bad.” “Good . . . Bad.” Breathe, and really feel it. Imagine yourself as a small child hearing those words, and feeling the energy of them. Now try the upgrade: “Good . . . Better.” “Good . . . . Better.” How does that feel? More loving, right? What can we accomplish with good and bad that we can’t accomplish with good and better? Do we really need good and bad? Is it so important to spend so much energy teaching our children this concept? Most people would probably say: “Of course! What would the world be like if we didn’t teach our children the difference between good and bad?” I say it would be heaven on earth. Why do we think that children cannot find their way if we just give them freedom and keep them safe? On one level, I think the worst thing we can say to a child is “Be good!” They are already good! And if they “try” to be good, they become unnatural. Maybe we are training out of our children the very things we are ourselves are trying to reconnect with, because they were trained out of us. One thing is for sure: when we do breathwork or any inner work, we need to leave that “good-bad, right-wrong” way of thinking at the door. When we take an inner journey, when we approach our inner child, it works best to be free ofthat divisive way of thinking, otherwise we will do violence on our inner child. What supports our inner journey is to be in our heart when we do breathwork.
BREATHE NOW: HEART-CENTERED MEDITATION
Focus on your heart center. Let your attention drop down out of your head and allow it to settle into the center of your chest. Bring full focused awareness to this place where love resides in you. Someone once said that this could be the longest journey we ever need to make: the twelve inches from our head to our heart. I like to say that it is no coincidence that the lungs are wrapped around the heart. Maybe the lungs are the wings we need to let our hearts soar! As you open and expand your chest, you create space for the heart to naturally open. Give yourself that experience: use the inhale to create more room, more space in yourself, spaciousness around your heart. With each slow, full conscious in-breath, meditate on the expansion from side to side, front to back, top to bottom. Let your whole body breathe, with the heart as the center of your experience. No hurry. Focus. Feel. Imagine breathing into the heart, from the heart, with the heart. Focus on the natural feelings and emotions that resonate in the heart and radiate from it: love, peace, compassion, gratitude . . . Generate the energy of those feelings as you breathe. Fill yourself with these feelings and this energy as you breathe. Send this energy to every cell of your body. And then on the exhale, allow that energy to radiate out through the pores of your skin, like rays of the sun—those rays, that breath, carrying your heartfelt intentions out in all directions, to everything and everyone. With this meditation, you become a source, a generator, a channel of love energy, and you are the first fortunate recipient of it. Every day, tens of thousands of Buddhist monks face the four directions of the compass and send peaceful vibrations out into the world. They are praying that all beings be peaceful, that all beings be free from suffering. I think they are making a difference. I believe that we can do our part to compensate for all the ignorance and negative energy in the world by doing this. I am convinced that a heartfelt intention, powered by the breath, can create miracles. Are you getting the hang of it? Begin to practice this spiritual breathing technique and look for the unfolding of an inner knowing as you begin to realize that every breath is a prayer, and every breath as a blessing.
One of the main things we focus on in breathwork, and one of the main points that we stress at all the seminars, is the importance of putting and keeping ourselves in a positive state. Tony Robbins calls it “a beautiful emotional state,” and Barnet Bain calls it “the most amazing feeling.” I experience it as a spiritual state.I am sure that you have had this experience: for some reason or for no reason, you find yourself in a bad mood. Because of that, it seems that everything gets to you; little things that don’t usually bother you or bother you very little cause major upsets. Even things that you would usually enjoy, you can’t because of the “icky” state that you are in. On the other hand, there are times when for some reason or for no reason at all, you feel very good. In fact, you feel so good that things that usually bother you don’t bother you at all. This is due to the state that you are in. In the practice of spiritual breathing, we make creating or moving into a beautiful state the focus, the priority. The following exercises and meditations are meant to do just that, to put you into the most beautiful and resourceful states. I suggest that you put as much enjoyment into the next few practices as you can, because it is when we are in these beautiful spiritual states that we are able to access the best and the highest in ourselves.
Compassion and Forgiveness
These are feeling states and heart states. The shortcut to regaining them when lost is to focus on our heart and to breathe with a soft gentle quality that combines strength and peace. Imagine a baby who has been teething, cranky, uncomfortable, crying, unable to sleep. Finally, the baby finds relief and is sleeping peacefully. Now you have to pick up the baby and carry her to bed without waking her. How would you handle her? Approach the breath that way: like a sensitive, delicate child. One of the secrets of breathwork is to put certain conscious qualities into the breath, into the way we breathe. What does compassion feel like? How would a person who is feeling great compassion breathe? Breathe that way. What does it feel like to forgive someone? How does it feel to be forgiven? How would a person who truly forgives or who experiences genuine forgiveness breathe? There is no right answer waiting to be discovered. You are being called to be it. Focus on the feelings of compassion and forgiveness and use your breath to give them form and expression.
We are all sucking off the same bubble of air that surrounds this planet. And so the breath already connects us to everyone and everything whether we are aware of it or not. Bring that feeling of connection alive in yourself. Learn to use the breath to wake yourself up to an experience of it. When you watch a sunset,don’t just take it in with your eyes, take it in with the breath. When you are listening to something or someone, draw the energy of what you hear into you with the breath. When you touch something, take in the feeling of it with the breath. Everything is energy, and once we are in touch with the energy in the breath, we can get in touch with everything.
Think of a time when you felt amazing, when everything was wonderful, when you were extremely happy, when you felt truly and totally alive, open, inspired, connected. Maybe you were falling in love. Maybe you were looking into the eyes of your infant. Perhaps drinking in a sunset, making a perfect tennis shot, baking a perfect batch of cookies, making a great presentation, or closing a successful business deal. Maybe you were preparing for a holiday or enjoying a celebration. Or maybe you were serving someone, making a difference in the world or in someone’s life, or making a contribution to something greater than yourself. When you have that memory in mind, imagine it in present time. Step into it as if it is happening right now. And feel it fully. What is the quality of that experience? The feeling? Start to use every breath to make that feeling more alive in you. Generate the feeling, feed and fuel it with the inhale. Use the exhale to relax into it and enjoy it. Be very Zen-like. Keep your focus moment to moment, breath by breath, on this most amazing feeling.
When you physically inhale, mentally exhale. When you physically exhale, mentally inhale. That sums up a spiritual breathing technique called De-reflexive Breathing. It is also called Krishna’s kriya yoga. There is more to it than that, but getting the hang of this main piece of it is big! As you breathe, imagine that air and light are traveling along the same path at the same time but in opposite directions. Some people like to use their hands to represent the light. As we breathe air in, light moves out and away from us; and as we breathe air out, light flows in and toward us. This meditation is meant to dissolve the illusion of separateness and to break the habit of body identification. It is meant to help us merge with the energy that fills and surrounds everything and everyone. As a friend once told me, everything in the universe has consciousness, and when we get too fixated on our own consciousness, we get out of balance with the rest of the universe.
Three Waves of Peace, Love, Joy
Focus on your heart and generate the energy of love and peace and joy as you breathe in. Fill yourself with it, and then release this energy out into the world with your exhale. Let each breath be like a wave. As when a stone is thrown into a pool of water, that circular wave that goes out in all directions. Take three long inhales and three big sighs of relief as you focus on your heart. Feel yourself filling with love, peace, and joy, and then send that energy out into the world, like a flower releasing its fragrance. A heartfelt intention powered by the breath can do magic in the world.
Spiritual Vacuum Cleaner
This is an advanced meditation for the daring of heart. Breathe all the negative energy of the world into your heart and let the heart transform it into positive energy. Breathe in pain, breathe out pleasure. Breathe in fear, breathe out safety. Breathe in hate, breathe out love. The heart is a transformer. Trust it. Make use of it. Breathe in sadness, breathe out gratitude. Breathe from your heart. The energy does not linger in you. It passes through without slowing down. Be like a child: innocent. Believe that the heart can magically and instantly transform any energy into love and joy and peace. The heart knows how to do this. With our heart, we can see the divinity in everyone. With our heart, we can see the perfection in everything. This is not a head thing. It is a feeling thing. It is a heartfelt creative thing.