Breathe! Part 3
“To become a welcome vessel for the breath is to live life without to control, grasp, or push away. And how easy is this? The process of breathing is the most accurate metaphor we have for the way that we personally approach life, how we live our lives, and how we react to the inevitable changes that life brings us.” - Donna Farhi, The Breathing Book
When I came across the above quote, it resonated deeply with me. I strongly feel that breath is life itself, and so the observation that how we interact with the breath is how we live our lives was a revelation and a truth all in one.
I think breath is the spirit in mind/body/spirit. That triad (or the shortened mind/body) has become a cliché, a buzzword for ‘alternative’ lifestyles, therapies, or any activity outside the norm of our Standard American Life. That doesn’t make the pursuit of mind/body/spirit integration and unity any less vital. If anything, the collective unconscious is hungry for a change from the excessively sedentary, cerebral, and disconnected world we find ourselves in. As we’ve discussed in Parts 1 and 2, the unconscious breath reflects our physical body and our mental state. And the coolest part is that we can use the conscious breath to affect both body and mind for the better. All this power in something we do all the time and pay no attention to? Amazing!
Everything old is new again, so they say. And our ancient forefathers knew a thing or two about the importance of breath. They recognized that the breath was the very stuff of life. How do I know this? Well, in quite a few languages the word for ‘breath’ is the same word used for ‘soul’ or ‘spirit.’ Here are a few examples:
The Greek word psyche pneuma is interchangeable for breath, soul, air, and spirit
The Latin anima spiritus is both breath and soul
The Japanese character ki is both air and spirit
The Sanskrit word prana means both life-force and breath
The Chinese character for breath – hsi – is three characters which mean ‘of the conscious self or heart
Another excellent example of breath as spirit comes from Neal Douglas Klotz, author of Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus. His English translation of the beatitude ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’ from the original Aramaic reads instead – “Happy and aligned with the One are those who find their home in the breathing.” A sentiment I can solidly get behind.
Here at Kensho, the tagline is “know yourself.” And by self I mean the meeting of your body, your mind, and your spirit. To know a thing, we must first connect to it, study it, and be with it. And each part, alone, is important. But to be truly YOU, to be at peace and at home in yourself, the uniform integration of all is necessary. I use the analogy of the orchestra. Each musician is excellent and proficient at his or her instrument, but to play as a whole they rely on the conductor. The breath is the conductor, the thing that brings every part into communication and balance.
I hope you can take a little time each day to be with your body, mind, and spirit, and allow the breath to be your guide to ‘know yourself’ even better.