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Breath Control

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life-anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst dol
"Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do or to endure I
"Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Till all this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine I
"Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So I shall never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
—E. Hatch
The freer step, the fuller breath,
The wide horizon's grander view,
The sense of life that knows no death,
The life that maketh all things new.
—Samuel Longfellow
He who gives breath, He who gives strength, whose command all the bright gods revere, whose shadow is immortality.
—Sacred Books of the East

It is not possible at the present time to form any adequate estimate of the true value of rightly controlled breath, all theories believed in and held to, in the past, fall so far short of what is really true concerning the wonderful benefits to be gained both in mind and body through an understanding and use of the function of breathing.

When one considers the fact that the majority of people use only from one-fourth to one third of their lung capacity, the question of breathing assumes an importance which heretofore it has not received. It is a well-known fact that nature never creates anything without a purpose and that if an organ is not used it becomes weakened and it is only a step further to disease. Thus it is no wonder that so many people suffer from diseases of the lungs or from other diseases caused through failure to breathe properly.

There is no question, however, but that the minds of thoughtful people are becoming more interested and desirous of knowledge upon the subject to enable them to use this function in a true and natural way, and there is no doubt but that the good derived through the true use of the breath will prove of incalculable benefit.

May it not prove the starting-point of a new round of evolution, which will tend to make man in every sense greater than he has been in the past and with more wonderful capacities? Many scientists believe that the evolution of man has reached its highest limit, and that any decided change would tend rather to develop him abnormally. For instance, if man gained in his brain-power, it would be at the expense of his body. This need not be true. When the lungs are used to their full capacity the physical man will keep pace with the intellectual.

The one thing upon which stress is laid by medical and scientific men is that oxygen is the all-important element in the atmosphere to be inbreathed; that it is the element which keeps the blood pure and from which life is derived. But oxygen is not life—no matter what our scientific friends may think about it. It is only one of many properties proceeding from the Great Life. Everything necessary to sustain the physical man is to be found in the atmosphere he breathes. It does not consist alone of the organic elements, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbonic-acid gas, but of countless infinitesimal life-germs, and it may be that the body, from first to last, is composed of these life-germs, which we have breathed in from the atmosphere about us, and that every cell in the body is a living organism, endowed with a life and intelligence of its own. Furthermore, the time is not far distant when consciously we shall take from the atmosphere through the right use of the breath, nearly, if not all, the nourishment necessary to complete and sustain the body—no matter whether that nourishment is contained in the atmospheric elements, or whether it is breathed in from the myriad life-germs in the atmosphere, or both.

It is generally conceded by the scientific world, now, that some kinds of bacteria add to the nourishing properties of food; for example, those which infest milk. It is also a well-known fact that these same germs improve the quality of butter. That bacteria are necessary to the upbuilding and sustaining of vegetable and animal life seems to be shown by the fact that when milk is exposed in high altitudes, beyond the range of animal and vegetable life, the bacteria no longer enter into it. This would tend to show the wonderful economy of nature, for only where there is organic life is there the wherewithal to sustain it.

Some may ask, Why is it if nourishment can be inbreathed, that people have to eat so much food? When we take into consideration the fact that people ordinarily are using only one third of their lung capacity, is it to be wondered at that they eat a large amount of food? Suppose the lungs were developed to their full capacity, might not the result be far different? In the many cases which have come under my observation of people who have made a study of the use and control of breath, I have noted that without exception they all eat less, many reducing their food by one-half and a few even going beyond that, in every case with beneficial results. It was not that they themselves had any desire to lessen the quantity of food eaten, but it was rather the result of growth, a natural change.

Again, it may be said that the lower animals eat and that it is natural for them to do so. Very true, and it may be perfectly natural for man to replenish his body in the same way, and yet there may come a time when all the food necessary can be taken by breathing it directly from the atmosphere.

It may be asked of what use will be the digestive organs if man is to obtain his food by breathing. I would suggest that while those organs have been necessary in the past, and may still be for a time in the future, man in a higher stage of development will use them in a different way. Evolution has shown us that as organs of the body become unnecessary they are reduced in size, either disappearing altogether or assuming some new function.

Plants and many kinds of fish breathe in nourishment. It might argue a retrograde movement on the part of man if only the lowest forms of life take their sustenance from the atmosphere; but this would really be no argument, for the fish and the plant in their limited capacity are perfect. Man has not yet attained to his perfection; but when he does attain it he may develop the power to nourish and sustain his physical form by the indrawing of life from the atmosphere.

I am quite thoroughly convinced that controlled breath action exerts a power on man's physical life that is of very great importance. One on which the majority of people fail to place an adequate estimate. Breath acts as a counterbalance to the fire in the human body. When we consider that the body is composed of all the elements of the earth, it should be plain to any one that these elements should be properly adjusted or in right relation one to another. Fire when dominant destroys physical equilibrium; if the breath is short and weak there is a tendency for the fire to consume and destroy the body.

The function of breathing characterizes the whole body from head to foot. When one is breathing in a true natural way not only are the pores of the body open and the breath is inhaled and exhaled through them, but the breath penetrates or circulates among all the molecules of the body: the whole organism may be said to breathe.

If we draw with the inbreath (as many scientists claim that we do) life-giving properties from the vegetation about us, and the vegetation in turn is benefited by outgoing breath, it shows the interrelation between man and the lower forms of life, and that all life is one, and that the true relation consists in a mutual giving and receiving, which holds good even from the least to the greatest of things.

It is true that if we all lived natural lives it would not be necessary to learn breath control; but because there is so much that is superficial in our every-day way of living, we need to establish all over, as it were, a right habit of breathing; but when this right habit is once established it becomes automatic in its action, and no longer requires the same attention that was necessary in the forming of the habit.

Physical poise is necessary for perfect breathing. The body can only be kept poised as it is held in control by the mind. As one's thought is centered the body becomes erect. When the thought habit is established it, in turn, establishes the physical habit. Physical exercise of all kinds, such as walking, running, riding, etc., are all good, but we must never lose sight of the fact that it is the mental exhilaration that gives us the true effect; that the mere physical act itself is not enough, and it is the enjoyment which we get from it that tends to renew and strengthen. When anything done in the physical realm becomes monotonous, so that we lose interest, it will bring little benefit to the body. We should learn to be thoroughly interested in everything we do and then both work and play will prove beneficial.

There are always two actions—the action from the center out and a return or reflex action, proving the law that whatever we give out will return to us. Remember, "the reflex action" must ever be the result of the true inner action, so that we have mind and body acting and reacting in perfect harmony.

The controlled effort to breathe should be directed from the diaphragm with the abdomen drawn in and body held erect. The drawing in of the abdomen has a tendency to throw the shoulders and chest slightly forward; this is the true natural position of the body, and if one keeps it either sitting or standing his breathing is going to be far more natural than it could be in any other position. In all breathing exercises, in order to derive the greatest amount of benefit, one should enter into them as he would enter into any recreation, with a pleasurable feeling and the mind thoroughly centered on what he is doing. If one follows this course it will aid him in concentration of thought and in many other ways help to evolve latent powers.

It is the outgoing breath that requires the most attention: on its perfect control depends to a very great degree the incoming breath. The outbreathing corresponds to and is affected by desire; the inbreathing is the response, the inspiration, or fulfillment of desire. People do not breathe as well in the dark as in the light; hence, when the mind is darkened by wrong thoughts, there is a lack of controlled regular breathing. Impure thoughts produce the fetid breath; pure, uplifting thoughts the sweet breath. Some may say that it is not thought that affects the breath, but a disordered stomach; but all the false emotions of life act on that organ, and an impure breath is the result. It is more certain that malaria proceeds from this atmosphere of anxious or evil thought, expressed through impure breath, than from anything that is injurious in the earth's atmosphere. Our minds, through thought and breath, affect the physical atmosphere about us—to how great a degree it is not possible to say, but as to its effect there can be no question. We all know the discordant and inharmonious feelings we have when in any assemblage where there is conflict of thought and ideas. On the other hand, we have all experienced the peace and harmony that prevail in an assemblage where there is unity rather than conflict of thought—one in which all are of one mind and one purpose.

In trying to acquire the use of the breath one should have high and exalted thoughts in the mind. If we would have noble aspirations with the incoming breath, we must then give out beautiful thoughts with the outgoing breath; because in the giving we receive, and the giving is always with the outgoing breath, and the receiving with the incoming. Breathe out thoughts of kindness, courage, hope, joy, and gladness; then the breath will be pure and sweet—it cannot be otherwise. We do not yet know how much the breath has to do with atmospheric conditions, but it may yet be known that the very atmosphere about us is purified and electrified by the controlled breath, which carries with it high and helpful thoughts.

It is not the long deep breath that makes one think in a strong true way, but rather the strong, buoyant, hopeful thinking that causes the strong, deep breathing. It must be evident to all who have given any thought to the matter, that the different emotions have a direct action upon one's breathing; that false emotions, such as hate, anger or jealousy, cause a short quick action of the breath, while the inner feelings of peace, joy or love give the properly controlled deep breathing.

Breath action is even affected by purely external things. In the gazing at different colors, for instance, the breath is visibly affected; white, yellow or blue tend in their order toward freedom in breathing; black produces a restraining influence on the breath, while red quickens yet shortens the breath. The wearing of black clothes and the crepe veil that people resort to when their friends have passed on to another life has beyond all question an injurious effect. Retarding the breath in its true action, it also acts upon the mind to keep alive morbid or gloomy thoughts, keeping one in a state that is both mentally and physically unhealthy.

When high and noble thought enters into the life of a man and finds an abiding-place there, he becomes self-centered.

Perhaps a word of explanation is necessary on "self-centering." I mean by it that when a man realizes his true relationship to God and his fellow man and seeks to control his life from his highest conscious thought, he becomes self-centered, or, in other words, he has found his true center. An instance was given me of the effect of centered or diaphragmatic breathing upon the mind in the case of some college students, who declared that it made them feel more manly and inspired them with a desire for higher things.

This physical center is the great center of feeling; the brain is the great thought-center. As thought is the product of feeling, then the solar plexus must be the vital center of being, and some day the scientific world will recognize this fact. From this center is generated the magnetic currents of life. Thought generates the electric force. The blending of the two forces converts them into one, bringing about the perfect poise of mind and body.

Perhaps no race of people has paid so much attention to breath-action as the Hindu. In talking with one of their very wise men, he told me that many of the things done by the fakirs of India, which seem so strange and mysterious to the people of the West, were produced by breath-action and thought-concentration. Furthermore, the Upanishads lay more stress upon the breath than upon anything else, and in their summing up of God the very last phrase used is "which is the Breath of Life." Our own Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, have reference after reference to the breath, as, "The Lord God made man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the Breath of Life, and man became a living soul."

The controlled breath is always the external evidence of the controlled mind, the result of the true inner action from center to circumference. But even in the effort which, apparently, makes only for physical control, one takes a step in the right direction, calling into use as he does mental faculties which in turn aid in the physical development, helping to produce a fit habitation for an immortal soul.

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Charles Brodie Patterson

  • Canadian New Thought author
  • Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917
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