The Contemplative Inner Breath
Bettina von Waldthausen
BREATH has many forms of expression. In its most comprehensive form it is the expression of the great in-breath and the great out-breath of the Creator and his creation. Yet most people in the West associate with breath / or breath therapy a technique to improve the functional breath of the lungs and the exchange of oxygen and carbon in the blood. So what is Inner Breath?
Inner Breath and Life-Energy
The Inner Breath is holistic and is intimately connected with the universal primary life-force energy, which penetrates everything and by which everything is created. Modern research indicates, that our subtle energy-body-field is the matrix for the dense, physical body and that this subtle field is also related – and reacts – via the nerve-system and the endocrines to the emotional system of the body. Any trauma, physical or psychic, has an effect on the flow of the subtle energy-body and can be seen as a disturbance in the field. Kirlian high frequency photography clearly demonstrates this, and traumas appear on Kirlian – pictures like mini-explosions of disturbed energy in the field of a person. Such disturbed energy-patterns are often the first signs of a disease or a deficit in the person´s health. Likewise a harmonic and balanced field is the best precept for good health.
The Inner Breath influences the subtle energy-body and vice-versa. Both act like a pair of twins, supporting one another. This is why the Inner Breath supports not only our vital life, but also brings us in resonance with our psychic and spiritual dimensions, because all these dimensions are interconnected in the field and depend on each other. To stimulate and harmonize the vital field of the body with the Inner Breath also means to enrich and nourish the psycho-spiritual field of a person. This does not only stimulate ad improve our physical health, but is finally leading us to new experiences and insights on how to live a more creative and more honest life in this world. In spiritual terms it means to reconnect our personal I or Ego – identity with the Self, the Soul, which is our most intimate ally since birth.
How can we practice the Inner Breath?
Turn your senses inward like you do in meditation. Be grounded and try to be relaxed in every muscle, each cell – and let the thinking mind go. Welcome light as well as darkness and listen to the silent coming and going of the Inner Breath in your body. Relax and observe what happens, observe the breath and find the subtle movement of the Inner Breath in the deepest level at the base of the pelvis vis-a-vis to the crown. It unfolds in the body and along the spine naturally, when you don’t expect it. It is both, movement and silence in one, you may feel it as a magnetic stream of life, refreshing your cells, your organs, your body. There may be an experience of joy, of pulsation of life, or just silence.
The Two Magnetic Poles
The Contemplative Breath nourishes itself in the deepest and the highest points of return: in the deep earth at the base and in the center of the crown, which corresponds to the spiritual center of the will. When both centers reflect each other, the Inner Breath begins to circulate between these two magnetic poles and along the spine and communicates with all cells and organs. The observer / the eye of consciousness rests between the eyebrows at that place, which the Buddhists call “the heart in the head”. Observe from here the movement of the breath in all its manifold forms and appearances, without identification and with a calm and open mind like in meditation.
To invite the Contemplative Inner Breath requires detachment and a relaxed but clear mind. Stay in the point of presence between the eyebrows and observe what happens. To be fully present means, to be rooted in both, the heavenly “I” and the earthly “I” . It also means : connect with the heart, your mind and your ground. Finally it means, to be fully present in the one centre, the Self who “I am”.
To accept the multiplicity of life is a key to the human heart. The heart unites all. To live with the voice of the heart requires your compassion and love. Equally it requires a healthy relationship with the earth, which carries us, and a clear mind and awareness for the world, in which we all live together.
You can do this work with the Contemplative Inner Breath at any time and anywhere to recover from daily stress: in the train, at home or while walking or sitting in a park. You don’t need a special meditation room to align with it. If you do it in groups, the experience of a leader will be helpful in the beginning to guide the group-process, until the breath becomes aligned. Nevertheless each member is always connected in himself and responsible for the own personal and individual process.
Long experience shows, that the Inner Breath harmonizes the energetic field and stabilizes mind and body. It also shows that the field enlarges and grows, when the breath-work is done in a group. The deeper the members are aligned with the Inner Breath and connected with themselves, the more energy grows in the group field. When all group-members get aligned, most of the people can feel it. It is like opening the heart.
Group-dialogue with the Inner Breath can be wordless or with words, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you feel the intensity of the Self in yourselves and in the group.
But allow yourself to speak with your organs, the bones, the cells. Ask them, who they are, what they need and reach out with your hands to care for them with your love. When they are aware of you and you are really aware of them, the process of transformation will occur.
The daily search for this breath, which holds both, the personal and the heavenly breath, is a healing purpose and a healing exercise. It means the full embodiment of our true nature, and grounds the inner heaven and the inner earth in ourselves. We need both. About the center between the eyebrows it has been said in the old Chinese wisdom-book The Secret of the Golden Flower:
“The Heavenly Heart rests between sun and moon between the two eyes. Keep your attention between the two eyes, and let the light shine.”
Exploring and cultivating the Contemplative Inner Breath requires intuition, creativity, openness and joy, endurance and letting go from all expectations. This recalls my favorite exercise from Roberto Assagioli: climbing a mountain. On the mountain peak man meets the (higher) Self. With a smile breathe out – with a smile breathe in.
The breath, to which I am referring here is the “Inner Breath”, which is based in the breath-work of Cornelis Veening® . Veening, a Dutchman (1895 – 1976) pioneered in the late 30ies of the last century in merging eastern body-tradition with western psychology. He was influenced by the depth – psychology of C. G. Jung and by Taoist breathing techniques, coalescing them with his own experiences into a new form of breath therapy, to harmonize the breath of the soul with the breath of the body.
The original version of this article is in German and was published in the German magazine “Psychosynthese –Zeitschrift”, Rümlangen 2003. Heft 8