Some say that the Universe itself was formed by the breath of a Higher Power (pick yours). Mankind was said to have been created by a creator who breathed into the dust and dirt of a lifeless entity and thus created humanity.
Thinking about breathing as a Spiritual event goes back a long way. It is the subject of many philosophies throughout the ages including the world’s religions, as well as Buddhism, Taoism and other ideologies. Breathing is the first rung of life support and is the essence of life itself. So it truly lends itself to much spiritual interpretation, and has inspired many and varied Spiritual ideologies throughout the history of mankind. We understand that breath is life itself and that we have the ability to control it, simply be aware of it, cut it off, re-breathe it into someone who is near death, through artificial respiration, or through mechanical means.
The following are some brief thoughts and commentary about the Spirituality of breath and breathing . . .
SPIRIT — Derivation. Latin Spirare: To breathe. Blow.
From Webster’s New World Dictionary: Spirit: Latin Spiritus; Breath (#1). Courage, Vigor, the Soul, Life. Spirare: To blow, breathe.
“The Spirit is no doubt the controlling agent of our existence”
— Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kun Do, p. 200
When you inspire someone, you breathe life and energy into them.
When someone expires, they breathe their final breath.
Spirit is often used to mean the Divine Essence, or animating principle within a living being. (Source: The Free Dictionary/Encyclopedia). In that context, Spirit can also be used interchangeably with the following:
Chi (Chinese), Ki (Japanese): The Universal Life-force that keeps us alive, functioning, and connects us to the Universe and to one another. Both the Chinese and the Japanese ideogram for Chi includes a representation of the steam coming from a teapot symbolizing the “breath of life”
Prana (Hindu): Universal life force. The “breath of life”.
Ruach/Ruah (Hebrew): Breath or Spirit. Divine Inspiration.
The above references take the spirituality of breath and breathing across a wide range of religious and spiritual beliefs. There are more.
“Constantly, breath is bridging you to your body, connecting you, relating you to your body. Not only is the breath a bridge to your body, it is also a bridge between you and the universe. The body is just the universe that has come to you, which is nearer to you.” – Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho).
I wrote some comments about breathing and meditation in last week’s article. For many, meditation is itself a Spiritual act. For some, meditation represents a way of opening a line of communication with a Higher Power and, “following the breath” is the gateway to opening that channel. I wrote last week that I participated in a meditation class for eight weeks and that one of the overall comments by the participants at the end of the class was that they experienced an overwhelming feeling of inner peace. The ability to control and follow your breathing is thought of by mystics and even some within the medical profession, to have the ability to heal. I don’t know the answer to whether it does or not, but you can find many testimonials to the healing power of the breath in books and online.
It’s certainly worth looking into. While many medical professionals endorse the power of controlled breathing as a stress reduction and healing tool, most doctors remain more traditional in their treatments. Please consult your own medical professional before you go off on your own to use the power of breathing to cure yourself of any physical or mental challenges.
Just understand that many believe that “following the breath” is, or will lead to a Spiritual experience and some consider “the breath” to be their connection to their Source.
I’ve put off writing about the technical electro-chemical aspects of breathing and how oxygen is converted to energy in your body, until the last article of this series which I will publish next week. It can be an interesting topic, and useful when explained simply. I’ll make sense out of complex words like Mitochondria, Adenosine trisphosphate (ATP), and the bioenergetic continuum, and put them into a context that is simple and understandable — Trust me. Really!
Thank you for reading.