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Cosmic Breath: Portal to Higher Consciousness


Last month, I talked about the Cosmic Womb.This month’s musing is about the Cosmic Breath, the Spiritual Breath, the Conscious Breath. Ahhhhhh……..


In my breath centered meditations, I remind students that our heart and lungs are partners in respiration, partners in inspiration – spirit in. Yogi Bhajan said: “Every beat of your heart is the rhythm of your soul. The voice of your soul is your breath.” Think of the breath as a divine healing wind, coming in and out through your heart & lungs.


The word spirit comes from the Latin word ‘spiritus’ which means breath. The Great Cosmic Breath – from that first breath of life you take upon birth and the last breath you take upon leaving this Earth. So, Breath & Spirit are ONE.


In the August musings, I shared some inspiration from the book Mary Magdalene Revealed. Near the end of the book, she talks about “an ascent narrative, a story about the rise of the soul, this is the heart of the Gospel of Mary.” She talks about the descent inward, to the heart. To me, this is also about deepening the connection to the breath. Again and again, we can connect with the breath and in doing so, the soul rises up from the heart. Watterson asks us to give gratitude as we inhale together. “And that when we open our eyes, we are now seeing with the eye of the heart.”


Cosmic Trinity

Every movement within Creation is a breath, referred to as the Great Cosmic Breath. The breath is made of 3 parts: the inhalation (an expansion), the exhalation (a contraction), and finally the space between the peak of inhalation/exhalation, the period of the pause, the in-between, the transition.


There’s a power that lives in the space ‘between'; that subtle instant when something ends, and what follows next hasn’t yet begun. Here we can access this in-between space of pure potentiality. For in this in-between space of inhale-exhale, above-below, we exist as midpoints between the realms. That moment is where magic and miracles come from!


The inhale – pause – exhale – pause. The space where the breath meets. The union of inhale & exhale. Together more powerful than just one or the other. In this stillness, we can experience the rhythm of the breath as well as the cosmos.


I mentioned the Trinity of Father-Son-Spirit in the July 2023 musing. Trinities appear in global religions and serve to provide unusual insights into how this concept of the 3-fold nature of reality, and our role in it, is seen and understood. There are many trinities – the Hindu Gods Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva and Goddesses Lakshmi-Durga-Saraswati; Kabbalists refer to humans as body-mind-spirit; Freud’s theory of the id-ego-superego and the 3 minds conscious-subconscious-unconscious; in Shamanism, they have their upper world-middle world-lower world cosmology; there are 3 main energetic pathways called the ida-pingala-shushumna; in Ayurveda you have the 3 gunas tapas-rajas-sattva and the 3 doshas pitta-vata-kapha; yoga has body-breath-brain; and there is also the Wheel of Samsara with birth-life-death.


Life follows this trilogy pattern which includes the breath, the 24-hours of the day, the moon cycle, and the cycle of the sun.


  • Inhalation = the expansion or movement outward such as a new day (Sunrise); the Waxing moon (expansion from new moon to full moon); and Spring Equinox until the Summer Solstice where the days become longer as we spring forward, awakening and filling our spirit.

  • Exhalation = the contraction or movement inwards as the day’s light turns dark (Sunset); the Waning Moon (consolidating from full moon to new moon); and the Autumn Equinox to the Winter Solstice where the days get shorter and we fall behind, REtracting inward into hibernation. Exhale teaches us the importance of REst, RElaxation, REstoration, REgeneration, and REnewal.

  • Pause = this magical space before Sunrise (dawn) & before Sunset (dusk); the New Moon & Full Moon; the Spring & Autumn Equinoxes where day and night are equally long, in balance. Solstices also hold the balance Above (northern hemisphere) and Below (southern hemisphere) when one is entering Summer and the other Winter. The space where the inhale begins and the exhale ends, where the exhale begins and the inhale ends. This is the time of complete stillness, a pause in movement. Here, the energies come together as one. These transitions – the unity polarities of the commUNITY, UNIverse, and infinite ONE - where we can learn to live from the place of AND.


These ‘in between’ points have been celebrated by our ancestors from the beginning of time and are wonderful opportunities for contemplation where we can pause and make peace with the past in order to bring in the new.


From the birth & death of galaxies to the beginning & ending of careers and relationships, and even the simplicity of breathing in & out, creation is the story of beginnings & endings: cycles that start & stop, expand & contract, live & die. For one burst of light to end before the next begins, there must be a moment ‘in between’.


Within this space of no-thing, for a brief instant, there exists a perfect balance where nothing is happening — the events that led to the burst are complete, and the new events haven’t started. In the instant of between, all possibilities exist, and none have been chosen.


Since all of creation flows in the rhythm of Great Cosmic Breath, then if we too flow WITH the breath by releasing our need for control (ego), we are brought in natural alignment with creation and live in harmonic resonance with all of life. It becomes our guide. It speaks the language of the universe. It awakens us to our divine potential, that of ascending back into Source.


Spiritual Cosmic Breathing

Our natural breath is when we move beyond the confines of our social conditioning, belief systems, and transcend the ego. Breath is our teacher when we surrender and let the breath of spirit flow through us. Breath speaks to our heart, it inspires us – spirit in.


Conscious or wholehearted breathing awakens you to the rhythms of the moment, the day, the season, the year, and the cosmos. Breathing is not just a practice during yoga or meditation; it is a mindful practice that incorporates every breath from birth to death, both conscious and unconscious, and connects you to Divine Consciousness.


The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit language and the root word “yuj” - meaning “union”, to unite or to connect to.


Approximately 2,500 years ago, the sage Patanjali compiled the Hindu manuscript the Yoga Sutras in which he defined yoga as “chitta vritti nirodha”, which is commonly translated as yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. The Buddhist term is “monkey mind.” Silent retreats allow you to discover and acknowledge your monkey mind. I just kind of smile when told to “empty your mind.” The mind’s job is to think. The problem is when we identify with our mind states and are attached to our ego’s sense of “I”, “Me” or “Mine”.


Describing chitta vritti in my Yoga Teacher Training, I say “don’t be a chit-head.” Too many people are stuck in their heads rather than their heart. It’s a state where the mind ceases to exist. You’ve created so much space between your thoughts because you were focused on your heart and breath.


Breathing is Life. The breath is intertwined in all things and connects all things. The Native Americans say that “God is the Spirit that moves through all things.” Humanity, however, has created an illusion of separation…separate from each other, each religion, each country, separate from nature, separate from God. Our breath is a tool to bring duality into balance; it’s a way to reunite our infinity spark back to Unity Consciousness.


According to one of the schools of Indian philosophy, the whole universe was projected out of akasha (space/ether) through the energy of prana. Sounds like the "big bang" creation story. Akasha is the infinite, all-encompassing material of the universe, and prana is the infinite, all-pervading energy of the universe - cosmic energy.


Prana is the universal principle of energy. Prana is the Sanskrit word for "life". It is a vital life force. It is all pervading. It is the animated breath of life that permeates all things, everywhere, at all times. The whole body works with this vital life force energy. The human body derives this prana through the breath because it rides on the breath. Breath is intimately connected with body and brain. It is the bridge allowing access to the nervous system, mind, and vital energy (prana shakti). Breath, body, and brain are all energized by the vital life energy.


This extreme intelligence of the infinite Creator is held within the air. You deeply breathe this in and circulate it in and through you.


“Inhale and God approaches you.

Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you.

Exhale and you approach God.

Hold the exhalation and surrender to God.”

~ Yoga Master TKV Krishnamacharya


The science of controlling prana through the breath is known as pranayama. The Sanskrit word pranayama is usually translated to breath control, but this is a limited interpretation. Pranayama literally means “the ayama (expansion or manifestation) of prana (pra: first unit; na: energy).


Intentional Breathing draws in more life force energy (chi, prana, etc) into the body, and as it circulates, you can use visualization techniques to help clear out any toxic or heavy energy (hoocha) in your body, replacing it with clear, pure, and revitalizing energy (sami).


When you deeply breathe in this divine wind, which is pure Love, and circulate the prana, you strengthen your Luminous Energetic Field (LEF) – your cosmic light - and release what is holding you back from transcending your rational, “monkey mind”. Your ability to “let go” of your mind happens faster, allowing you to reach higher states of Consciousness.


Pranayama is actually the “science of breath” which imparts knowledge related to the control of prana. One who has learned to control prana has learned to control all the energies of this universe. The breath is the access to the unconscious. The breath is the great integrator. It is the best tool to integrate the 4 primary levels of our being: physical (body), mental (mind), emotional (feelings), and spiritual (soul).


It is through the eight limbs of yoga that one weaves together their spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical bodies – thus experiencing samadhi. Samadhi is the state where the Self and God/Goddess are one. It is described as ultimate bliss, and each person must have their own direct experience of it. Once the physical instrument is pure, the chakras & energy body attuned, and the ego dissolves into the cosmic Self, it opens the door to liberation. This is the “place where the magic happens”.


In yoga, they are called siddhis, or unusual spiritual superpowers. These magical powers are the gift for doing the work – consistently and wholeheartedly. In Patanjali’s Book of Spiritual Powers, he explains that there are 64 minor and 8 special involuntary powers. Some of the psychic phenomena could include levitation, astral projection, lucid dreams, visitations from Ascended Masters & Archangels, visions, and clarity – the clairs.


Yoga offers one harmony, balance, and the ability to quiet the mind so one can hear the longing of one’s heart. In Mary Magdalene Revealed, Watterson talks about Mary’s cave being her own heart. Union of body, breath & brain leads to bliss. The yoga of absorption.


The Science

There is a philosophy that you only have a certain number of breaths per lifetime. If you breathe fast and shallow, you will use up your breath allowance sooner. However, if you learn how to breathe slower and deeper, it is said you will extend your life span plus it decreases your stress level. Using slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing kickstarts the calming "rest & digest" effect on the peaceful, Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).


Shallow breath, shallow Consciousness.


In a Psychology Today article on hacking your Vagus Nerve, Christopher Bergland explains that longer exhales are the key to stimulating the Vagus Nerve which counteracts fight-flight-freeze-faint-fawn response. He makes 3 key points:

  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the difference in time between the beats of your heart. Those intervals should be regular but with some variance. People who are emotionally stable have even HRV patterns, a pattern called coherence. Whereas those in emotional turmoil, have irregular HRV.

  • HRV is also used to indicate the strength of someone's Vagus Nerve responses and vagal tone (VT). Higher HRV is associated with stronger Vagus Nerve function, lower chronic stress levels, better overall health, and improved cognition.

  • Just 2 minutes of deep breathing with longer exhalation engages the Vagus Nerve, increases HRV, and improves decision-making.


During inhalation, the stressed, Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) accelerates the heart rate. During exhalation, the Vagus Nerve secretes a transmitter substance (ACh) which causes deceleration of heart rate via the peaceful, Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Not only does the Vagus Nerve control heart rate and slow deep breathing, it slows respiration rates. Slow breathing techniques with long exhalation will signal a state of relaxation by the Vagus Nerve. This is a form of respiratory biofeedback.


Researchers Roderik Gerritsen and Guido Band explain: "The breathing techniques used in contemplative activities (e.g., meditation, yoga, tai chi) include, but are not restricted to, slowing down respiration cycles, shifting to longer exhalations compared to inhalations, shifting the main locus of respiration from the thorax to the abdomen (diaphragmatic breathing), or paying attention to ‘natural’ breathing. Especially slow and deep breathing with emphasis on long exhalation.” This explains the effects of contemplative practices on health, mental health, and cognition.


There are many yogic breathing techniques that trigger the Vagus Nerve to slow down the heart rate and cause a relaxation response. Specifically, by focusing on the inhalation-to-exhalation ratio, extending the length of each exhale. Increasing the duration of the exhale after taking a deep breath is like a self-made tranquilizer that relaxes the nerves.


Techniques

The ancient method of meditation was practiced sitting cross-legged with spine straight, hands resting on your knees in Gyan or Jnana mudra, meaning “Gesture of Consciousness” or “Wisdom Seal”. It’s the first pose people make when asked “What is yoga?” They turn their palms up and place their pointer & thumbs together. This is said to keep the energy, or prana, circulating within the body.


First, let’s get something clear… all breathing is diaphragmatic. There is no such thing as belly breathing. It’s anatomically impossible. Your lungs are not in your belly. When you inhale, the lungs fill with air and the diaphragm drops down causing the distention of the abdomen.


Diaphragmatic breathing combined with "Ocean Sounding" Ujjayi was practiced by many ancient Taoist and Yogi traditions to reach deeper levels of meditation and higher Consciousness. This should sound like an “ocean wave”, “Darth Vader”, or as if you’re trying to fog up a mirror with your breath. If your monkey mind can’t stop thinking, you can use the mantra, “I am breathing in. I am breathing out.” The breath expansion (inhale) and contraction (exhale) are like how a jellyfish moves with the flow of the ocean. It’s the same as the ebb & flow of the universe.


The easiest way to start conscious breathing/meditating is to set aside 5 minutes a day. Each week of practice, add another 5 minutes until you reach 20 min per day. You can use apps like Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, Aura, and Stress is Gone.


A recent study in the May issue of the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that both slow, deep "symmetric" breathing patterns (with an equal ratio of inhaling/exhalation) and unequal breathing patterns (with a longer exhalation than inhalation) significantly increased Heart Rate Variability (HRV).


  1. Equal Ratio Breathing – My favorite techniques are Four Square Breath/Box Breathing and Coherent Breathing. 4x4 breathing is used by the Navy SEALS and it’s simple, you inhale for 4 seconds, pause 4 seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds and pause 4 seconds. Coherent Breathing is simply slowing down the breath to a specific rate. I like the videos from “LowerMyPressure” because they start with 12 breaths per minute and you work your way to 6 bpms. This technique is used by high altitude climbers.

  2. Unequal Ratio Breathing - One gadget-free way to track the timing of your breath is to use a 4:8 ratio of 4-second inhalations and 8-second exhalations. This breathing cycle takes 12 seconds which equates to 5 inhalation/exhalation cycles per minute.

  3. Vipassana meditation - Vipassana is a Pali word meaning “to see things as they really are.” Using this insight, you practice observing the sensation of the abdomen rising and falling with the breath. You just observe the motion of the body/breath from beginning to end, keeping your attention to what is occurring in the immediate present moment. While it may seem unproductive and even boring, quite the opposite is true. With each rise & fall of the body/breath, the mind calms.

All these techniques move the Nervous System towards the rest & digest and away from fight-flight-freeze-faint-fawn.


The in and out flow of the breath is also connected with your level of stress and your ability to relax your body and calm your mind. Are you breathing correctly? Obviously, you are breathing if you are alive, but most people do not know the correct way to breathe in order to receive the most energetic benefits of the breath, or life force. Feeling out of breath, like you can’t breathe deep enough, or breathing too fast for normal comfort; sometimes noticing you are holding your breath a lot.


The life force energy of breath not only helps the body to relax, but it helps to clear out old energies, remove energetic blocks, purify the body of toxic energies and emotions, and it gets stagnant energy moving! Getting enough breath on the inhalation (the correct way) and being more conscious of the breathing process itself, can have obvious physical benefits such as more physical energy and alertness to the mind as oxygen is needed to revitalize your body, yet at the same time conscious breathing promotes relaxation and relieves stress and mental discomforts.


Over time, your heart rate will slow down, emotions will balance, and worry floats away. And…The International Journal of Neuroscience published a study showing the cells of people that meditate looked 12 years younger under a microscope than their actual age (biological age rather than chronological age).


The Breath & Spirituality

Rhythm is everywhere in nature, in the macrocosm and the microcosm, and in humans from the breathing rhythm to the life cycle & Wheel of Samsara.


All aspects and principles that constitute the universe, or macrocosm (astrological rhythms of the stars & planets) are also embodied in the microcosm (physiological functioning such as heart rate, blood pulse, etc.), just as the ocean is completely represented in a single, small drop of water from that ocean. The human body is sustained by the same prana that sustains the universe.


The breath has enormous power. By learning to be conscious of the breath, we learn to maintain/contain prana – the vital energy that sustains every aspect of our being – physical, mental, emotional & spiritual as well as the entire cosmos. Working with the breath, we are able to preserve our nervous system, mind, and life force, opening the door to higher awareness, and connection with unity Consciousness/Source.

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