“Take this,” I was told, and I took the brown paper bag he gave me and put it up to my mouth.
“Now breathe deeply ten times.” I did what I was told. It felt a little strange.
My friend held me from behind with his arms around my chest, squeezed tight, and told me to exhale all the way. Again I did as I was told, and as he gently laid me down on the floor, I had my first out-of-body experience. I was eight years old.
The next time I was taught about how significant breath can be was when I fathered my first child. I was only eighteen, and my wife and I attended breathwork classes during her pregnancy, specifically to ease her and our son through the birthing process. As her coach, that was my first experience as a breath worker.
Since then I have eagerly explored all forms that came my way, and many of the most significant shifts in my life have happened as a result of the practice. Correspondingly, I notice that in the most fearful moments of my life – the most sticky ones – I don’t breathe at all.
What happens to your breath when you get shocked or upset?
Trauma takes away the breath, and the fact that we stop breathing when we are in difficulty embeds the trauma even deeper in the body. It gets stuck and obstructs the free flow of energy. This un-ease eventually leads to dis-ease. For example, we now know that cancer cells need an anaerobic (deprived of oxygen) environment to thrive, yet we are breathing less and less. By breathing deeply, consciously and fully, we are increasing our oxygen supply and strengthening our immune system too.
20% of our oxygen intake is used by the brain, yet in today’s society we take in about half the oxygen we did before the industrial age. The air is dirtier, we are more sedentary, and we live inside sealed containers which recycle the air we breathe. Imagine what has happened to our natural intelligence as a result!
There are so many statistics now that show the importance of conscious breath – scientific, medical, meta-physical and even spiritual. I won’t bore you with them here, but perhaps the most important thing that I have learned is this:
By applying awareness to a function that doesn’t actually require it -and by maintaining a conscious connected breath – we are giving our attention to where it is not used to going. In this space we can stretch the boundaries of consciousness.
As I contemplated the patterns in my life that were limiting me, I understood that my core beliefs were recreating circumstances that I didn’t want to happen. Coping mechanisms that I had developed at a young age in response to trauma, aggression, or just the hardness of life itself had become habitual, and I was actually making unconscious choices to ensure they kept repeating themselves. During my explorations of the psyche I understood that unless the radical structure is given a chance to shift, the cycles will continue.
Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis was a quick way to access the substructure of much of my behavior, and also supported the changing of bad habits. But what about the higher realms? It still felt like something was missing.
Most of my friends belonged to one spiritual group or another, but even as a young man I wasn’t prepared to accept that contact with the spiritual should depend on an interpreter. I didn’t want my understanding to be limited by someone else’s capacity to feel, understand and articulate. I preferred to see everyone as my teacher and to retain my independence rather than invest in a guru. But having steered away from religious belief systems I found myself spiritually isolated, and very hungry.
It wasn’t until after a lifetime of resisting religious indoctrination in a myriad of forms, that I understood breathwork itself is a prayer, and a claim for my divine right – a healthy life in this physical form, which is connected and guided by spiritual purpose.
Many of us know that the word ‘inspire’ comes from the Latin ‘inspirare.’ The literal translation is ‘in-spirit,’ or ‘bringing in spirit.’
The more I breathe, the more inspired I become.
This reflects in greater creativity, less stress, out-of-the-box thinking and relationships that are vibrant and exciting without needing to be dramatic or conflict-ridden. This is because I am expanding my awareness and giving myself greater resources to navigate through a world that presents a whole lot of pitfalls and not many clear roads to peace, harmony and wellbeing. I find my life is more efficient, more informed, and more flowing as a result.
By ‘surfing’ the breath – the conscious embrace of spirit into the body and the psyche – I change my perspective on life in a few short moments. Some people take drugs or plant medicines to ‘borrow’ from a greater consciousness, but my choice is to visit these realms because I am stretching my awareness as a result of my own connected breathing. This happens from the inside out.
By awarding ourselves the extra oxygen that our brain craves, we are fueling our awareness.
For example, if I have a serious problem that I can’t resolve, I take it to the breath; I lie down and practice conscious connected breathing. Invariably my understanding changes. I access an intelligence that is not available in my normal distracted daily life. The issue becomes separate from the feelings it creates, and I am able to examine it with a new sense of clarity.
How exciting it is to me that we can access more brain food by simply choosing to. If you were given the chance to nourish your brain cells more, wouldn’t you wish to see what happens? Think of all the supplements we take, the exercise systems, the myriad of ways we seek to achieve growth. Now think of what’s lying right under your nose, costs nothing, and is your greatest renewable resource.
Conscious breathing is the greatest gift we never truly received.
As a result of studying different forms of breathwork, and after many years of meditation, I developed The Alchemy of Breath. The purpose of AOB is to introduce practical techniques with conscious breathing that are simple. This can also be done alone at home.
We combine a specific meditation practice with the connected breath and this permits us access to a different realm, creating more choice-points, and perceiving with an enlarged sensitivity. So, like an artist who discovers new colors, we are able to approach life with more possibilities.
The results can be miraculous. Some of these include release of trauma from abuse or accident, resolution of addictions, and renewed love and spice in long term relationships – often in just one session!
I have brought the practice into boardrooms before potentially hostile negotiations and seen meetings conducted with ease, grace and care as a result. What a great way to vision as a team.
I have seen an injury that should have broken bones in four fingers repair in less than five minutes – no bruise, no stiffness and little pain after the hand was caught in a closed car door – up to the second knuckle.
The miracle is actually that of life itself, for when we breathe consciously we are not just taking the lid off our limitations. We are also re-connecting with an already existent part of ourselves that knows. Each connected breath is a re-membering with the core of who we are, underneath all the layers of protection we have created to survive through the challenges of life. Des-pair becomes re-pair. At all levels this is what the universe wants, this repair. Nature is always seeking to restore and resolve. This is also our true nature as humans, and as we have been separated from our pristine origin, we now need to re-pair with it.
Changes appear to occur instantly because they have actually been waiting to happen all along. We just haven’t paid attention to them, and they need our attention in order to come into existence.
I remember as a child hearing clichés like: “Its God’s will,” “Go with the flow,” or “God is within you.” Now I understand that as we breathe we do reconnect with Divine source, the Cosmos, or the God of our understanding. This re-ignites the Divine within, where there is an ocean of love and compassion that waits for us. This place – buried deep inside – is common to all humanity.
I invite you to join with us. Come and breathe with us, either at one of our sessions, workshops or with our Breathe the World program, where we connect over the globe through the internet.
This is where we are not a-lone, but all-one. And from here we can change the world, one breath at a time!