Sensuality of Breathing

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Are you breathing just a little and calling it life?”  Mary Oliver

If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.” Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening

Following this quote by Mark Nepo is a very brief story about a Hindu sage centuries ago.  “One day in the morning of their morning prayers, the sage suddenly rose and ushered his students away from the monastery.  He rushed about them and shooed them like little ducks back into life, proclaiming, “The day is to be experienced, not understood!”

Every activity in life is an act of making divine and sacred love. What could be more sensual than simply breathing?! …and as Mary Oliver questions how fully are you really breathing/living!!

We arise in love with every inhale we take as we receive into our bodies the lover of breath.  Without conscious awareness we open ourselves to receive this gift and then complete the circle as we exhale back out giving to other life forms around 149706_561080740573113_1754882585_nus.  The trees and plants embrace our carbon dioxide and give back to us the oxygen that we crave. Interconnected.

Sensuality is completely enjoying and fully appreciating what the senses give to us in any given moment.  If breath was your lover it would be so much more enjoyable to allow it to be all that it is meant to be so that it could make love to you.  Not a technique or an understanding of breaths anatomy and physiology, but pure unadulterated pleasure and acceptance in feeling the breath move in and out.

You can hear breath moving in and out, but cannot see breath.  I sometimes wonder if we could see breath what it would look like – the pure energy of love itself?  No one knows exactly what causes the heart to beat or how that first air breath is ignited when we are born into this world.  All we know is that at first it feels something foreign to our being having come from a watery world…and then we experience the kiss of breath and are never the same again.

Our bodies undulate – open and then surrender – with each breath we take if we have welcomed the fullness of breath into our being.  Our voice can be heard by others and our songs can tenderly touch the parts of us that are yearning to dance.  This is not something that we try to comprehend.  We are simply and sensuously breathing.

Deeply within our blueprint lies the part of us that accepts simply being breathed…a metaphor for life lived in alignment dolphinswith the creative force that resides within.  One can know this place in any moment….slippery dolphin touch teaching you to embody the movement and sensuality of breath, dark earth and evergreen smells as reminders of where you have come from, wind sounds wrapping themselves around like the finest of silky garments, tastes of air across palate, slithering past the fine hairs that line your nasal passages, lying with another and joining breath as if weaving a fine art piece, lustily laughing a series of exhales which then welcomes the in breath with open arms.

How could you ever go back to taking breath for granted?  It enlivens, paints, sculpts, expands, awakens and enhances your life with every inhale and exhale, cherishing you as no other can.

Will you cherish breath and experience the sensuality of life?  Re-member…..you innately know how!

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Fluidity

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Barton Springs, Austin, Texas

Fluidity is our natural state of being.

With life’s “hits” we often become static, fixed and rigid, wrongly thinking that these states will protect us from whatever is “out to get us” in our day to day living.

Instead we can be knocked over quite easily and incur even greater trauma when in these non-fluid states.

The amount of water in the human body ranges from 50-75%. The average adult human body is 50-65% water, averaging around 57-60%. The percentage of water in infants is much higher, typically around 75-78% water, dropping to 65% by one year of age.

To add to that according to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, and even the bones are watery: 31%

We can’t ignore the fact that water makes up more of who we are than other elements and considering that we came from a watery home while inside of our mother it seems curious why we outright deny that we are in fact fluid and liquid in nature.

There is nothing more directly noticeable than the breath when we are not in a fluid state in our bodies, thoughts, emotions and how we express in the world.  Our breath is hung up in the upper most part of our chests, and secondary breathing muscles (in neck, shoulders and upper chest) compete to see who can become the most contracted in their efforts to breathe us.

When we are breathing effortlessly from our primary breathing muscles (diaphragm, intercostals between the ribs, and moving-waterabdomen)- or being breathed as I like to say –  our bodies feel supple, fluid and flexible and our expression in the world comes from a deeply relaxed place of trust and confidence.  Imagine a wave of breath washing through you.  There is no way to be fixed, contracted or rigid in that!

If you really want to feel liquid and fluid I would suggest swimming with dolphins in the wild.  This was a peak life experience I was privileged to have several years ago.  One can’t help but feel the sensuous nature of being free, playful and lovingly liquid as when swimming with these amazing creatures.  For moments in time you feel that you could breathe under water too!  Perhaps we all did at some time in our ancient past!

A FEW TIPS FOR EASEFUL FLUID BREATHING:

* Be aware when the breath becomes shallow and you feel tension in your neck, face, upper chest and shoulders. Take a breath break!

* Breathe with your primary breathing muscles: diaphragm, intercostals between the ribs, and abdominal muscles. (by the way holding tight in your abdominal muscles or wearing unforgiving tight clothing constricts the breath unnecessarily)

* Imagine a wave of breath moving through you and washing all of the tension away.

* Smile and laugh often and watch the fluidity come back into your being!

* Dance with abandon and move from all parts of your body.  Celebrate the body you have been given!

* Join with another and breathe together.  Watch as your breath eases and lets go as your rhythm comes into synchronization with theirs.  Surrender is the name of the game.

* Imagine yourself safely in a water environment floating and being completely held and supported.

*  Bring attention to your second chakra (right below the naval) and place your hands there with great love as you consciously breathe for a few minutes.  Watch your abdomen soften with the attention.

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*Commune with the Earth and frequent Nature often!

* Go swim with dolphins!

There is a way of breathing
That is a shame and a suffocation.
And there is another kind of breath,
A love breath,
Which opens you infinitely.

—Rumi

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Return To Deep Harmony

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My recent offering of a class called Decrease Anxiety, Indulge Inner Peace has been an awakening on many levels.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older.  That equals 18.9% of the U.S. population and doesn’t even include those under 18.

Shallow constricted breathing is one aspect of the emotional posture of anxiety.  Our entire system turns acidic with this type of breathing, our secondary breathing muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper chest become tight and contracted,  and the stress response is activated over and over again.

Did you know that the average person reaches peak respiratory function and lung capacity in their mid-20’s  As they continue to age they lose between 9%-25% of respiratory capacity for every decade of life.  The findings resulting from a 5,000 person clinical study group observed over a 30 year span showed that the way a person breathes is the primary measure of potential life span. (Framingham study).  This tells me that we can change the decline in respiratory function by breathing more fully as often as possible and potentially decrease anxiety!

“For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on Earth”  Sanskrit

That full diaphragmatic breath that was so easy when we were infants somehow became distorted and contracted as we learned over the years that is was often not safe to be completely ourselves.  This “shut down” on so many levels is perhaps the core reason why there is so much shallow breathing and anxiety these days.

In addition, the minds default for survival always seems to go to the past and to the future to supposedly protect us from making the same mistakes or creating new ones.  We resist the fact that everything changes.  It is the moment to moment experience of life NOW that somehow gets lost in the fray!

A key to opening back to what Deepak Chopra calls “deep harmony of body, mind and Spirit that was yours at birth” is a full unrestricted breath…one after another.  Is our goal to always breathe in this way?  Well, perhaps intention is a better word here for if we can be aware of our breathing throughout the day, and at least start and end our day with at least 5 minutes of conscious breathing practice, our body will start to remember what it was like to be that open and unrestricted.  Our hearts will celebrate as they are massaged by the diaphragm and open to love, and our minds will once again remind us of the capacity for wholeness and interconnection.

We won’t always be able to breathe this fully, but at least we can have the intention.  It takes practice and a willingness to live the moment.  Here is a mantra that you might want to use in your daily breath practice:

On the inhale silently say to yourself “alive” and on the exhale “now”.  Then rest in the “pause” before the inhale naturally comes back in again.  The moment is a gift of awareness.  This also can be a great “break”  during a very busy day when you realize that you are forgetting to breathe, or in the midst of emotional, mental, or physical stress. 

As Dennis Lewis says in the last of The Ten Secrets of Authentic Breathing, “Remember you are a breathing being, alive right now and here.  Let yourself feel the mystery and the miracle of your breath and your life as often as you can.”

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Cherish Yourself Within The Breath


“As you breathe in cherish yourself. As you breathe out cherish all beings.”

H.H. The Dalai Lama

As 2013 begins we may take a look at our lives to see and feel where we can be more of our authentic selves, increase our happiness, love more, achieve more, create more…..and it goes on.  It there was one intention for the year, only one mind you, what would that be?

For me I ask to be mindful of my breath.  The full, natural optimal breath that was given to me at birth.  Breathing fully is perhaps the best way to value yourself and your overall health.

Dr. Andrew Weil, father of Integrative Medicine says it this way, “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.  From my own experience and from working with patients, I have come to believe that proper breathing is the master key to good health.”

Many of us find ourselves breathing from a very shallow place when we even notice our breath.  This shallow breathing is an integral part of what I call the anxiety cycle.  Shallow breathing tells the body to protect and be on guard.  What unseen forces are out there to get me?  …and it takes us into the future or the past, forgetting the precious moment we have right now.

On the other hand a full breath activated via the diaphragm with soft belly and full ribcage expansion tells our body and our 377365_284005775041434_1705234306_npsyche that all is well.  Ahhh….looking forward to the next full breath, the next life moment.  Do you want to live a full, healthy and expanded life?

DID YOU KNOW…The average person reaches peak respiratory function and lung capacity in their mid 20′s? As they continue to age they lose between 9% and 25% of respiratory capacity for every decade of their life! The findings resulting from a 5,200-person clinical study group observed over a 30-year span showed that the way a person breathes is the primary measure of potential life span. (From Framingham study) Do As One

The breath practice above suggested by the Dalai Lama is simple and effective, or the simple words of “I am breathing in” and “I am breathing out” for 10 breaths, with eyes open or closed, and in a posture of comfort is one way of breaking the anxiety cycle….and putting your focus on enhancing the way in which you are presently breathing and living!

Begin 2013 with cherishing your breath, yourself….and all beings.

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Barefoot Breathing

“Many of us are blind to the ways that the earth supports us. We seldom even feel our feet on the ground. Take your shoes and socks off, massage your feet, pull your toes apart, play with them. Then simply stand with bare feet on the earth. Sense the earth’s energy rising up through your feet. Let the earth help energize you. And let it breathe you.”Dennis Lewis

Over a week ago now I took a mid-week journey to a place in nature outside of Austin that I had never been to before.  Pedernales State Park turned out to be an amazing sanctuary for me and reminded me of the sacredness of our connection with the Earth and the natural elements.  Dennis Lewis in his quote above is right on when he says that we seldom even feel our feet on the ground….essentially our connection with the earth.

Stepping barefoot from rock to rock in the shallow part of the river the destination of a large flat rock was reached.  For over an hour, lying face up to the sun with feet dangling onto smooth rocks beneath the running rivers surface, I breathed in the sound of running river water overlaying the deep quiet of nature without man made sounds.  My feet, heart and soul found peace….found home.

Having grown up in San Diego with it’s wonderful beaches I naturally was a barefoot girl and morphed into a barefoot woman that actually hates for her feet to be confined in closed shoes.  Thank goodness for the warm weather of Austin where I can wear the simplest of footwear most of the time!  What has the seldom felt barefoot against the earth done to our natural connection with nature and even the way in which we breathe?

Our senses diminish, we forget how to breathe from our very toes, and our feet forget how joyful it is to be fancy free to explore what we are walking upon or touching.

The many acupuncture and pressure points in the feet are a key to our health.  If they are hardly ever stimulated by remembering the feel of earth, rock, sand, meadow or even the bark of a tree then we forget….we forget how intimately connected we are.  Without this connection and stimulation we forget who we are, and we forget how to breathe from the roots of our being.

This week try the practice that Dennis speaks of above in the quote.  Pay attention to your feet with love and patient attention.  Stand barefoot upon the earth surface of your choice, close your eyes, and allow the earth to breathe you!

WEBSITE www.ResonanceWithLife.com

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Exhale and Relax…..

Here we are in the last month of summer and Fall is looming ever more closely.  Here in Austin it remains in the 100’s and will stay quite warm through most of September.  Summer for many often means taking time off for rest, recreation and travel, but there is a frenetic quality to this warmest season of the year that leaves a lot of people “burnt out” and over stimulated.

Being able to relax your body at will is a life skill that adds not only to in the moment joy, richness and satisfaction, but also to overall health, well being and longevity.  What if there was a tool that you had at your disposal every single moment to inhabit a calmer place even in the midst of stress and life challenges?

Rick Hanson Ph.D. author of Buddha’s Brain (which is an excellent book by the way!) gives some ways in which to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – rest and digest – that calms down the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system in his book Just One Thing(27-28). Three out of five tips listed are all about the breath!

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*”Do several long exhalations, since the PNS handles exhaling.  For example, inhale for a count of 3, and exhale for a count of 6.”

*”For a minute or more, breathe in such a way that your inhalation and exhalation are equally long; count mentally up to 5 for each inhalation and each exhalation.  This creates small but smooth changes in the interval between heartbeats – since the heart speeds up slightly with inhalation and slows down slowly with exhalation which is associated with relaxation and well being. (Kristal-Boneh, et al 1995)”

*”Relax your diaphragm – the muscle underneath your lungs that helps suck air into them – by putting your hand on your stomach, just below your ribcage, and then trying to breathe in a way that pushes your hand half an inch or so away from your backbone. (This is especially helpful if you are feeling anxious).”

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As you attempt to fit in a few more summer activities and find them more stressful than enjoyable remember that your exhale will stimulate the rest and relaxation response in your body and mind.  It doesn’t take long to simply take a few conscious breaths with an intention of lengthening the exhale and relaxing the diaphragm.

You might be surprised at how easy it is to simply exhale and relax….

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The Feminine Breath

NOTE:  THIS POST IS FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN!!!

This past week I have watched 2 movies that have moved me greatly and have served as a reminder of what I have often left carefully hidden away from the world – the very roots of my being.  This post is entitled “The Feminine Breath” as it is a way of breathing for all of us that has been lost, decimated, and yes hidden from our awareness for way too long.  A resurgence is riding on the back of our planet that is daily reminding us of the havoc and imbalance we have created.

Jane’s Journey is about the astounding life and actions of Jane Goodall transitioning from a young girl with no college degree boldly following her childhood dreams into an internationally recognized woman living her passion and truth through daily actions and deep dedication to bring peace, compassion, and ecological health to all life.

The film Desert Flower, is a National Geographic stunningly filmed movie about Waris Dirie from Somalia who faces life challenges that are way beyond what any of us could imagine.  Yet she chooses to step into her strength and truth exposing a mutilation practice that, due to her efforts, is finally being eradicated.

Both women demonstrate what it is to bring back the feminine way of breathing and to embody that breath in each moment of life.

Clare Daikin of Tree Sisters says:

When we say ‘feminine’ most people think, Woman, but Feminine is one side of the whole that is all of us. We all have the receptive and expressive sides, the passive and active, the intuitive and logical, the flow and the structure. The feminine is like the in breath or the roots where we connect, receive and resource. She is the source of our deeper knowing and the deep lake of our pleasure. The masculine is like the out breath or the branches, where we make manifest, build, create, grow and structure. He is informed by the feminine and takes action to serve the whole system into optimal form to function effectively. He is replenished by her, so is served by her as he also serves her.
For more of this excellent blog post click here: http://www.treesisters.org/news/86/81/Reinstating-the-Queen
It is this very “feminine breath” way of being that is crucial to our vital health – that of self, relationships, community, countries….and the planet which sustains our life.  Without connecting, receiving and resourcing from our roots we cannot manifest, build, create and grow new ways of being that live in harmony with the earth.
We are the new life form on the block!  Let’s deeply learn from that which not only has come before us but is our greatest teacher.
Find your favorite tree this week, sit down beneath it, listen, and receive the wisdom as you breathe from the roots of your being…
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