Conscious Breathing VI

Breath and Consciousness
Charla Shamhart


Charla ShamhartA friend of mine sings a song titled “Breathe on Me Breath of God.”   Without the Cosmic Breath of Life, we are nothing but the proverbial lump of clay devoid of consciousness.  Our physical forms, and all in third dimensional reality, are animated by breath, which is the carrier of the life force energy known in Sanskrit as prana.  Breath becomes a tool we can consciously use to direct and redirect awareness to an expanded state of consciousness.

In Native American tradition, we recognize that all matter, from the stone people to the plant sisters to the animal brothers, including the creepy crawlies, the finned ones, the four-leggeds and the winged ones, to two-leggeds, the humans, and everything between, is the carrier of consciousness.  It is breath that is the flywheel of that consciousness.  The more we are able focus our attention and intention to control and direct that flow of breath, the greater we have the capacity to expand that consciousness.

I regularly see people shopping in stores who are breathing through their mouths.  Invariably, they have a vacant look on their faces indicating that the engine is running (barely) but no one is at the wheel, so to speak.  A high level of consciousness is absent.  Other people use nasal spray regularly to open both nostrils, not understanding that, throughout the day, the flow of breath swings from one nostril to the other, naturally.  Our noses function as a battery with the right nostril providing the positive electrical charge and the left providing the negative.  Our bodies essentially operate on alternating current, swinging from positive to negative and back several times a day.  Interrupting that natural flow can short-circuit the battery impairing health and focus and impeding the expansion of consciousness into higher expanded levels.

It is natural at night to breathe primarily with the left nostril predominating, which controls the negative, calming energetic circuit.  If we find ourselves awake unable to sleep, lying on the right side and redirecting the breath in through the left nostril and out through the right can calm and relax us to allow us to move into a place of restful sleep.  If we find we are too tired to function clearly during the day, we can redirect the breath in through the right nostril and out through the left several times to energize and refocus our minds clearly.

Yogic alternate nostril breathing, also known as the harmonic breath, can be used to restore a sense of calm attention and expanded awareness.   In using this breath, we learn to balance the flow of breath between the two polarities, while retaining the breath either in or out between inhalations and exhalations.  Learning to use bodily “locks” to further contain the breath adds intensity and supercharges consciousness further.  Using this harmonizing breath three to four times daily, primarily at sunrise, noon, sunset and sometimes before bed begins to store prana in the body as a reserve for health and as a bank to fuel consciousness.

A friend who lived extensively at an ashram in India tells the story of a yogi in deep meditation who was found buried under several feet of soil when a crew was excavating for a road.  He awakened but no one was able to understand him.  A scholar who specialized in ancient languages was bought in.  It was determined that the man spoke an ancient, long-forgotten dialect from thousands of years before.  He had so developed the inner flow of breath that he was able to recirculate inner cosmic energy without using the outward breath.  Today we marvel that such things are even possible.

A story of the ancient Cherokee people tells of their migrations through what is now Central America.  At that time, deadly toxic gases from volcanic eruptions interrupted their travels.  Many of them are said to have gone within, again using the breath, and waited in meditation for over a thousand years while the gases cleared and they could resume their travels to the North, later becoming the highly developed Mississippian culture.

These stories tell us that for ages untold that breath has been used as a tool to not only direct and expand consciousness, but to sustain life when such would not seem possible.  Traditions of breath control exist in many traditions, but perhaps none are so widely recognized as breath control techniques from Tibet and other nearby Himalayan areas.  Here the Breath of Life reached its pinnacle of development in the shadows of Mount Everest at the top of the world.  In learning and practicing breath control techniques we literally begin to breathe the Breath of God into us.  Breath is spiritual medicine.  We are advised to find a learned practitioner to guide us in using this most powerful of spiritual tools.

© 2016 Charla Shamhart

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