The Importance Of Breath
Breathing is an essential human function that we experience before conscious recollection and it lasts until our very last moments. To be human is to breathe, yet something so fundamental and applicable to everyone is curiously left out of our education and thus most people don’t think of breathing as being very important. Anyone who researches spirituality will find that breath is regarded as the most important discipline in raising one’s awareness. No matter how long your mind has been rambling with thoughts it will begin to quiet the moment you pay attention to your breath. As we consider the incredible power of breath we should also question why we were never taught how to breathe properly. Are we set up by society to be perpetually out of breath as we race around constantly thinking but rarely focusing our mind? Take a deep breath, now slowly exhale. Let’s get started.
You don’t have to focus on your breath in order to do it. In many cases the body breathes of itself, without instruction, similar to how the heart beats itself. Combine a lack of focus with a mindset that doesn’t see breath as important and you have a person that goes about their business in an automatic fashion. These people never set aside the time to relax into their breath and body, and instead treat their body as a mechanism devoid of a spiritual component. Their awareness is often narrow and their enjoyment is fleeting. Without conscious breathing, we become victims of the endless parade of our own thoughts. Nonstop thinking interferes with our enjoyment of the present moment, and so we have to learn to tame the wild beast of the mind if we want to fully enjoy eating, sex, dialogue, or environment. The key to enjoying the present moment is to quiet the mind through conscious breathing.
Breathing can be considered circular, or spiraling, and as being composed of four parts or seasons: inhale, being full of breath, exhale, being out of breath. Since we live in a go go go world where we are bombarded with advertisements, moving cars, and television screens we rarely get to relax into deep breathing. This leaves most people in the ‘out of breath’ season. If you notice your automatic breath, you will realize it doesn’t take long, slow inhales or calm, deep exhales. The automatic breath gets caught in shallow breathing just as society gets caught in the one-season world of always producing. Any extra focus in breathing in, holding breath, or breathing out will help balance out this inequality. Once you make a practice of returning to breath you will see how often you too exist in the shallow breathing state.
I feel that the reason breath is considered so important to spirituality is because breath is our connection to divinity. Breath shares so many commonalities with the non-duality, Big G God I wrote about last entry: it’s there in the best and in the worst moments, it’s present whether you notice it or not, and you can return to it in the now no matter how long you have ignored it. One can live their whole life thinking God has left creation, yet breath is there throughout the entire adventure. Breath, like God, doesn’t require recognition for it’s astonishing presence. This may all sound like religious nonsense to an atheist, but even they will benefit from a clarity of mind if they were to focus on breathing consciously. There is no one right way to breathe, and no one can breathe for you, but once you slow down and develop your own breathing practice you will notice your awareness raising.
As the pace of the world has increased throughout human history our breathing has become more shallow and less conscious. We are taught to be in an alert, focused, problem-solving consciousness but not to be in a meditative, contemplative, deep-breathing consciousness. Conscious breathing is easy to do and you can start at any time. With practice, you will be able to access higher awareness centers normally hidden by the racing mind.