Concerning Breath (1st)

” Religions are numberless

sects many

yet all follow only two ways:

one takes you to knowledge

and the other to love.

Reaching the goal

one discovers with surprise

that there is no knowledge

separate from love;

that, truly, love is knowledge

and the secret gate to both is one:

the breath.” °

“It has been known for centuries that it is possible to induce profound changes of consciousness by techniques which involve breathing.

The procedures that have been used for this purpose by ancient and non-western cultures cover a wide range from drastic interferences with breathing to subtle and sophisticated exercises of the various spiritual traditions.

Thus the original form of baptism as it was practiced by the Essenes involved forced submersion of the initiate under water, which typically brought the individual close to death by suffocation.

This drastic procedure induced a convincing experience of death and rebirth, a far cry from its modern form involving sprinkling of water and a verbal formula.

In some other groups, the neophytes were half-choked by smoke, by strangulation, or by compression of the carotid arteries.

Profound changes in consciousness can be induced by both extremes in the breathing rate—hyperventilation and prolonged withholding of breath—or a combination of both.” ¹

“Respiration has a special position among the physiological functions of the body.  It is an autonomous function, but it can be easily influenced by volition.  Increase of the rate and depth of breathing typically loosens psychological defenses and leads to release and emergence of the unconscious (and superconscious) material.” ²

As the foregoing quotations indicate, controlled breathing can work changes in our lives.

For most of us, the first thought in our minds would be, “Who knew?”

No special knowledge is required for what we’d all call “normal breathing.”

It just happens. 

But when we begin to practice controlled breathing, its helps to know some of what our ancient ancestors knew about using such techniques and what results they expected.

More on this later.


° C. M. Chen as quoted by Frederick Leboyer, The Art of Breathing, (London, Element Books, 1979, pg 1

¹ Stanislav Grof, The Adventure of Self-Disccovery, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1988, pg 170

² Grof, The Adventure of Self-Discovery, pg 171

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