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Breathing is the process that moves air in and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly to flush out carbon dioxide and bring in oxygen.
- A bhikkhu, having gone to the forest, or to the foot of a tree, or to an empty, solitary place, sits down cross-legged, keeping his body erect, and directs his mindfulness. Then only with keen mindfulness he breathes in and only with keen mindfulness he breathes out. Breathing in a long breath, he knows, "I breathe in a long breath"; breathing out a long breath, he knows, "I breathe out a long breath"; breathing in a short breath, he knows, "I breathe in a short breath"; breathing out a short breath, he knows, "I breathe out a short breath"; "Aware of the whole breath body, I shall breathe in", thus he trains himself; "Aware of the whole breath body, I shall breathe out", thus he trains himself. "Calming the process of breathing, I shall breathe in", thus he trains himself; "Calming the process of breathing, I shall breathe out", thus he trains himself.
- Gautama Buddha, Mahasatipatthana Sutta
- The human brain performs the function of thinking as involuntarily as the chest the function of breathing. However, we can, by our will, stop breathing for a while, and accelerate or retard the breathing movements. In the same way, the will can control the thoughts. We may choose any object as the subject matter of our thought, and yet we may quickly convince ourselves that the power of our will and the freedom of the mind are not any greater than the freedom of the chest in breathing.
- Joseph Dietzgen, Letters on Logic: Especially Democratic-Proletarian Logic (1906), Letter 2
- The old dispute about the relative virtues of the active way and the contemplative way is a spurious one. We require both. They are phases of a single rhythm like the pulsing of the heart, the in-drawing and letting go of breath, the ebb and flow of the tides. So we go deep, deep inwards in meditation to consolidate our vital energy, and then, with greater love and wisdom, we come out into the family, the community, the world.
- Eknath Easwaran, God Makes the Rivers Flow (1982), pp. 18-19
- I would like to offer one short poem you can recite from time to time, while breathing and smiling:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.
- Thích Nhất Hạnh in Being Peace (1987)
- I know of families where children go into a room like that after breakfast, sit down and breathe ten times, in-out-one, in-out-two, in-out-three, ten times, and then they go to school. This is a very beautiful practice. If your child doesn't wish to breathe ten times, how about three times? Beginning the day with being a Buddha is a very nice way to start the day.
- Thích Nhất Hạnh in Being Peace (1987)
- I have a friend who, whenever he becomes agitated, enters the breathing room in his home. He sits down respectfully, breathes in and out three times, invites the bell to sound, and recites the gatha. Immediately he feels better. If he needs to sit longer, he stays there. From time to time, while his wife is preparing dinner, she hears the sound of the bell, and it reminds her to be mindful in her work. At such times, she deeply appreciates her husband. "He is so wonderful, quite different from others. He knows how to deal with anger." If she has been irritated, her own resentment subsides. Sometimes she stops cutting vegetables and goes into the breathing room to sit with him. This picture is so lovely, more beautiful than an expensive painting.
- Thích Nhất Hạnh in Being Peace (1987)
- Doing things in this way has a good effect on everyone, teaching by example, not just with words. When your child is agitated, you don't have to say, "Go to that room!" You can take his or her hand and walk together into the room for breathing, and sit quietly together. This is the best education for peace. It is really beautiful to begin the day by being a Buddha. Each time we feel ourselves about to leave our Buddha, we can sit and breathe until we return to our true self.
- Thích Nhất Hạnh in Being Peace (1987)
- There are three things I can recommend to you: arranging to have a breathing room in your home, a room for meditation; practicing breathing, sitting, for a few minutes every morning at home with your children; and going out for a slow walking meditation with your children before going to sleep, just ten minutes is enough. These things are very important. They can change our civilization.
- Thích Nhất Hạnh in Being Peace (1987)
- Urusvati knows the power of a deep breath. We have pointed out the benefit of correct breathing before, and much research has been devoted to the subject, but in this book, “Supermundane,” one significant fact should be pointed out. In various fields of work, when feeling fatigued, people will interrupt their work or speech by taking a deep breath and thereby receive an influx of new energy. In most cases, they do this out of intuition, without giving thought to the process. How greatly would the power of this process be increased if it were performed consciously! Remember that this rejuvenating breath is supermundane, for by it man summons Higher Forces. He should understand that for greater effect, he should consciously turn to the Supermundane World and affirm his inner link with the Reservoir of Be-ness. Some workers, when pausing to take a deep breath, close their eyes. Their intuition is correct, for closing the eyes increases their concentration. ... Note also that a supermundane breath is single, without repetition. This is significant, for only in a lone breath can be summoned the full power of energy.
With rapid repetition, shortness of breath can occur, which harms the work. The Thinker advised, “Understand the power of a supermundane breath.” 816.
- Cleanliness is necessary out of doors and in the human breathing. The imperil exhaled by irritated people is identical with filth, or shameful refuse. 293
- Each exhalation sends out emanations of psychic energy. Each man lavishly saturates space; therefore he is obligated to show concern about a better quality of psychic energy. If people would understand that each breath has a significance for space, they would take care to purify their breathing. With the simplest apparatus the emanations of psychic energy can be demonstrated. One can see in the swings of the pendulum of life how continuously the energy vibrates. The same means shows the radiations called the aura, which indicates that particles of the aura are being sent out ceaselessly into space, and psychic energy continually weaves a new protective net. He who speaks about the inconclusiveness of experiments with psychic energy will usually be one who does not ponder at all about its existence. Dense ignorance contributes to the poisoning of the atmosphere. This must be understood in its literal meaning. Pure breathing is not attained by means of medicines. Psychic energy is the basis of purifying the breathing. 339
- When, in Insight-practice, the meditator has achieved some skill up to the stage of Calming, he will, in due course, become aware of the fact that two processes are involved here: the physical process (rūpa) of breathing or abdominal movement, and the mental process (nāma) of knowing it. ... If the awareness of these two processes has become strong through repetition, they will present themselves regularly as a pairwise progression of physical and mental phenomena: breathing, knowing, breathing, knowing, ...
- Nyanaponika, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, pp. 111-112
- Modern man has even forgotten how to breathe correctly, therefore, some exercises in rhythmical breathing, provided the air is pure, will bring nothing but benefit. However, the danger of public instruction in such exercises is that ignorant people may begin to exaggerate them; this may cause an influx of blood to some particular center, which may often be situated in a diseased organ and thus could cause radical worsening of its condition.
- Helena Roerich, Letters II, 16 April 1936
- As for pranayama, you overestimate its significance. Correct breathing is always beneficial, but those exercises which are advocated by irresponsible self-styled yogis are extremely dangerous...
- Helena Roerich, Letters II, 24 May 1936
- Prana is the very same psychic energy in its quality of vital force, which is diffused everywhere and is absorbed by man chiefly through breathing.
- Helena Roerich, Letters II, 16 August 1937
- Conscious breathing, which is a powerful meditation in its own right, will gradually put you in touch with the body. Follow the breath with your attention as it moves in and out of your body. Breathe into the body, and feel your abdomen expanding and contracting slightly with each inhalation and exhalation. If you find it easy to visualize, close your eyes and see yourself surrounded by light or immersed in a luminous substance - a sea of consciousness. Then breathe in that light. Feel that luminous substance filling up your body and making it luminous also.
- Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now (1997) p. 80
- Another portal into the Unmanifested is created through the cessation of thinking. This can start with a very simple thing, such as taking one conscious breath or looking, in a state of intense alertness, at a flower, so that there is no mental commentary running at the same time... to create a gap in the incessant stream of thought. This is what meditation is all about.
- Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now (1997) p. 86
- Many people's breath is unnaturally shallow. The more you are aware of the breath, the more its natural depth will reestablish itself. Because breath has no form as such, it has since ancient times been equated with spirit the formless one Life. “God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7. The German word for breathing – atmen – is derived from the ancient Indian (Sanskrit) word Atman, meaning the indwelling divine spirit or God within.
- [Breathing] is an excellent meditation object precisely because it is not an object; has no shape or form. The other reason is that breath is one of the most subtle and seemingly insignificant phenomena, the “least thing” that according to Nietzsche makes up the “best happiness.” ...Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment – the key to all inner transformation.
- Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (2005)
- Be aware of your breathing. Notice the sensation of the breath. Feel the air moving in and out of your body. Notice how the chest and abdomen expand and contract slightly with the in- and outbreath. One conscious breath is enough to make some space where before there was the uninterrupted succession of one thought after another. One conscious breath (two or three would be even better), taken many times a day, is an excellent way of bringing space into your life.
- Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth (2005)
Chapter XV The Essential Science of Breathing, in Humanity Comes of Age, A study of Individual and World Fulfillment by Vera Stanley Alder, (1950)
- Some say ‘Man is what he eats’ and some say ‘A man’s thinking determines his character’. It might be even more true to say ‘A man’s life and character are governed by his breathing’! This is because a person can neither digest what he eats nor act up to his ideas unless his breathing qualifies him to do so. p. 101
- Breathing is really a very complex activity. It does not only consist of taking in air, absorbing oxygen from it and letting it out again as carbonic acid gas! The breathing has a tremendous effect on the character, determining the mood, courage, strength of purpose, health and inspiration from day to day.
- Usually... a person’s breathing has become automatic from childhood upwards, being determined by his childhood’s environment, circumstances and heredity. This automatic breathing is usually very inferior because of our ‘modern’ way of life, and leads to permanent inferior health. Therefore one of the first things which must be taken in hand is an understanding and mastery of the science of breathing.
- It is no exaggeration to say that if even five minutes a day were spent in mental and physical breath control, a person’s whole life would be made anew. For, besides the physical atoms of the air, such as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, there are literally thousands of different radiations playing through the atmosphere, some of them infinitely subtle and powerful, which come from planets far outside our solar system! These can, and should, be drawn upon by us in correct breathing, specialized through our endocrine glands, and used in our most vital thinking and creative activities.
- A Yogi, or eastern sage, who wishes to perfect himself begins with the breath, and by its means obtains control over every nerve and function in the body, and finally arrives at super-normal experiences and an ecstasy... Whereas a citizen of Western civilization is usually brought up without any knowledge of the science of breathing whatsoever, his breath being successively restricted by taboos and inhibitions throughout childhood, adolescence, and finally by the anxieties, depressions, bad air and smells, and the nervous rush of modern life. The final result is that the average person hardly breathes at all (compared with what he should do) and therefore is relatively half-conscious most of his days.
- We can get on top of the world in most circumstances if we know and practice correct breathing, but without it we will always be working on one cylinder, and at the bottom of our form. For correct breathing feeds our minds as well as our bodies.
- Correct breathing must be deep, slow, even, and controlled by the mind and will. If it is deep it allows all the necessary rays and forces of nature to be drawn in and to reach every part of the body. If it is slow, then all possible benefits can be obtained before it is expelled again. If it is even, a rhythm is established in time with the rhythm of nature; the various vibrations of the body tune in with each other, and with the cosmic life-giving rays, thus producing a complete harmonious integration. If it is controlled by the mind and will, outside influences cannot upset the personal rhythm, nor distract the individual from his goal.
- Conversely, a shallow, quick breath only half-nourishes, and is the partner of fear, nervousness and self-consciousness; whilst the uneven uncontrolled breath allows the person to become ‘beside themselves* with the emotional disturbance and indecision.
- Correct breathing also performs a constant massage of the internal organs by raising them up and down, thus curing constipation when it is caused by faulty insufficient breathing (as is often the case) which holds the muscles of the abdomen in a static position. Therefore the first thing to do is to make sure that you know how to breathe from the physical standpoint, and how to control the muscle of the diaphragm. This muscle forms the dividing line between the chest and the stomach just below the ribs. Place the fingers upon the diaphragm muscle just below the ribs and under the centre breast bone. In this arched hollow lies the muscle upon which correct breathing depends. Take a slow breath, drawing the muscle upwards and inwards, following its movement with the fingers, fill the lungs with air right up to the collarbones. Then breathe out slowly whilst tucking the diaphragm still further inwards and upwards!
- Herein lies the true secret of breathing because most people do the exact opposite and drop the whole chest and let the muscles sag whilst breathing outwards. At first, practise every day until you have gained control of the diaphragm muscle, using it to push the air up and out in expiration. This pulls the intestines from their usual sagging position, thus accelerating the whole digestive system. It is also the foundation for all your future breathing work. It raises the chest and inclines the oxygen to pass upwards into the head and cleanse and invigorate the mind.
- As soon as you have begun to master the diaphragm muscle, you can consider the rhythm of the breath. This must be gentle, even and deep, and have four stages:
(1) pause for preparation, (counting three);
(2) breathe in slowly, (counting three; (3) hold breath whilst absorbing life forces, (counting three) and
(4) breathe out whilst spreading the new life all over the body (counting three). Then repeat the exercise. As soon as you feel able, increase the counts to four times four and gradually increase until you arc able to breathe to four times seven without strain. (p. 104)
- This is called the World Breath or ‘Seven’ Breath, and was much practised by the ancient Egyptians who were adepts at physical and physiological culture. Seven, as you know, plays an important part in the plan of the Universe which affects tnis Earth, as for instance, the 7 planets, 7 colours of the spectrum, 7 notes of music, 7 days of the week, etc. If we practise the Seven Breath every morning on awakening, we will tune ourselves in to the forces of growth and progress and derive great benefit and strength from so doing, provided we neither strain nor jerk.