Breath is the original psychedelic, which comes from the Greek for psyche and delos; to make manifest the spirit. When we’re born the first thing we do is take a breath and make manifest the spirit in the human body. This is hopefully immediately followed by a loud life-giving wail so the family knows that the new baby has fully arrived. In the romance languages, breath is translated from the Latin spiritum. From this ancient root word we get inspiration, respiration, conspiracy, aspiration, spiritus sanctus (holy spirit), spirituality and all number of concepts and practices that wouldn’t be possible without breath.
Every living spiritual tradition among the human species – and a few animal species too! – involves some kind of breath practice. Qi Gong, meditation, contemplative practices, yoga, spiritual singing and prayer all require breath to manifest the benefits of the practice. Breath is the heart and engine of each one.
Breath can be a bridge between our conscious and unconscious sections of our autonomic nervous system (the sympathetic and parasympathetic). Breath is with us throughout every moment of the day and through the long stars of the night, whether we’re aware of it or not. We can both control our breath consciously or let it do its thing as we focus on tasks, conversations, fantasies, or just driving in traffic.
Breathwork, then, is harnessing the unbelievable power of this baked-in psychedelic. In our practice we always say that breath is the psychedelic hiding in plain sight. It’s within us and all around us and when we use this stunningly abundant substance with intention the possibilities are literally endless.
One possible use of Community Breathwork as we practice it is to situate your journey in the head. Before every breathwork I try to remember to say, “In the realm of the imagination, the laws of physics don’t apply.” I hope our Breathwork Practitioners hear this and imagine gravity defying temples of waterfalls, wild falcons, and the loving embrace of the perfect Mother. I hope our Practitioners imagine a spaceship filled with ficus trees, apple blossoms, and ancient oaks as co-navigators on a journey to the Horsehead Nebula and back. I hope our Practitioners imagine a perfect home under the earth with tea, a soft bed, and good friends.
Breathwork used in partnership with the head and the imagination in this way can be incredibly healing for people who have never experienced the safety, love, and companionship they’ve so desperately needed. Since the mind knows no difference between ‘imagination’ and ‘reality’ these kinds of highly visual and exploratory mental journeys can be as healing as actually experiencing them physically. And it’s all powered by breath.
The mind is only one ‘engine’ you can combine with your breath in our Community Breathwork practice. The other two engines are Heart and Gut, and we’ll write about those, so stay tuned!
Join us for a Community Breathwork practice to experience the power of Breath and Mind combined.