One of the problems yet to be solved by the Western mind is that of the true action of breath. It is not the purpose of this article to give definite instructions in regard to the control of breath, but rather to suggest the possibilities for good that may accrue to man from a knowledge of its proper direction and use.
One may go without food or drink for quite a long period; but with breathing it is different. A few minutes, at the longest, without taking breath will cause a separation between soul and body. The writer is convinced that the question of breath—in relation to the power it exerts on man’s physical life and the direction it should take through a true understanding—is of great importance: one on which the majority of people fail to place an adequate estimate.
It is well known that people in the Far East, who lay claim to considerable knowledge of occult matters, declare that many of the phenomena that seem so wonderful and mysterious to Western beholders are produced through the properly controlled and directed action of breath. Inability to take strong, deep breath serves to bring about an unbalancing of the physical organism. Breath acts as a counterbalance to the “fire” in the human body, which is composed of all the elements of the planet. Now, it is plain that these elements should be properly adjusted or related one to another. Fire, when dominant, destroys the equilibrium. If the breath is short and weak, there is a tendency for the fire to consume and destroy the body, and where there is this consumption there is also a lack of respiration.
I do not wish to be understood as laying undue stress \on the power of breath aside from a controlled and directed effort on the part of man, for I believe that physical exercise of any kind is of little benefit save as it becomes a vehicle for the expression of inner things. In order to get lasting good from breathing exercises we must pay attention to the mental qualities that normally should control the action of the breath. Desire expresses itself in our method of breathing. Strong, true, uplifting desire causes us to breathe strong and deep, while a weak, vacillating, .and false desire results in superficial breathing. This can be proved by any one through carefully noting the effect of varying desires upon the breath.
It is singular how the natural state of breathing is affected by the thought of a material object, or even a color. The thought of anything black seems to produce a restraining influence on the breath, while to think of something white or yellow tends invariably toward freedom in breathing. In fact, any color we look upon or think about has .a definite action on the breath. This is not a mere guess it is a fact that has been repeatedly proved by persons that have made a study of the question. It is evident to all who give any thought to the matter that the breath is affected by the different mental emotions: that, for instance, the false mental condition of anger or hate causes a short, quick breath, while thoughts of peace and love produce the properly controlled, deep, long breath.
It is possible through thought-action alone to effect a marked change in the circulation of the blood; but, with "thought and a controlled and directed action of the breath, such a change can be effected almost immediately. I believe it possible thus to regulate the circulation of the "blood so that it will flow equally to all parts of the body.
Again, I know of no better way to acquire concentration of mind than through breathing exercises. As already explained, however, we must not lay so much stress on the breath itself as on its properly regulated and directed action. It is not the long, deep breath that gives the strong, true thought; but, rather, the strong, true thought that gives the long, deep breath.
Breath does not penetrate one part alone of the body. The lungs are not the only organs that breathe: this function characterizes the whole body, from head to foot. Under a controlled and directed action, the breath penetrates, or circulates, among all the molecules of the body; hence, the whole organism may be said to breathe.
In the last paper I referred to the possibility of taking food direct from the atmosphere through breath-action; and I am convinced that this is already being done to a marked degree by numbers of people—in some cases consciously, in others unconsciously. I feel assured that, as man grows more spiritual—as his desires become more centered in the inner, conscious world—material food, in its present form, will be no longer necessary to sustain the body whose nourishment will be drawn from the finer substances of nature.
The possibilities of controlled breath-action cannot be overestimated. No matter from what point of view we consider the subject, in its different bearings, we can see nothing but good flowing from it. It gives elasticity and “lightness” of body; it is beneficial in overcoming nervous conditions, and is invaluable in banishing insomnia. Its renewing power is most marked—as it tends to establish a harmonious vibration of all the molecules in the physical form. Through its proper use, coughs, colds, and other lung troubles would become things of the past. It is undeniable that even at the present time the lungs are not utilized to more than half their capacity. It is self-evident that the organs of our bodies are intended for proper and thorough use. If they are not used as they should be, weakness will come—soon to be followed by disease and death.
Persons having but little knowledge of breath-action feel, nevertheless, that its right use must be important; otherwise they would not recommend long, deep breathing as an exercise. But, while this in itself may produce some good results, yet it is a very different thing to know and to use the force in a conscious and intelligent way.
To say nothing of the sacred books and the fragmentary writings of the sages of India, our own Bible is filled with thought concerning breath. In Genesis we are told that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” In Job we read that “the Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life”; “but there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” Inspiration and breath, in a certain sense, are one—as the outer correspondence of inspiration is in-breathing. Even the word spirit (Latin: spiritus, spirare, to breathe) gives the thought of breath as the correspondence of the Universal Spirit, making all vibration dependent on the breath of life. In the twentieth chapter of John’s Gospel we read: “And when he had said this he breathed on them and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” The old English and ancient Saxon gast signifies breath. The word “holy” has no other meaning than that of whole; and so we might well read the passage in this way: “Receive ye the whole breath.” The receiving of the whole breath would mean a thorough knowledge as to control and direction of breath. For a number of years Jesus had been instructing his disciples in the mysteries of life, and we know that he said on one occasion: “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” And in the passage quoted the thought we get is that the time had come when the disciples were ready to receive their last instruction; and his breathing upon them would seem to indicate that they received it through other channels than that of the spoken word.
It is useless for us to ignore or make light of this question of breath. It is of the utmost importance, and the better and truer way is to try to get as intelligent and comprehensive a knowledge of the question as possible. Some of the advocates of spiritual science may think that we are taking too material a view of the matter; but I cannot think that such is the case. We should try to understand the power and the use of all force. I know that we can make too much of the effects of things, but it is nevertheless true that we should have as thorough a knowledge of cause and effect as it is possible to have.
It is the outgoing breath that requires the most attention: on its perfect control depends to a very great degree the incoming breath. The out-breathing corresponds to and is affected by desire: the in-breathing 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 conditions of life act on that organ, and an impure breath is the result. There is more malaria proceeding from the atmosphere of anxious or evil thought, expressed through impure breath, than from the earth’s atmosphere.
Evil thoughts not only tend to influence our own breath-action, but there is a direct effect on the atmosphere that causes it to become poisoned, and in turn tends to poison the lives of others. Our minds, through thought and breath, affect the physical atmosphere—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—as, for instance, in a political meeting, or in shopping, where a large number of people are brought together: many already fatigued, and all intent upon their own wants and anxious to have them supplied as quickly as possible, to the exclusion, if need be, of everybody else. 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—as, for instance, in a church in which all are in the same faith and are of one accord.
More from Charles Brodie Patterson
- Canadian New Thought author
- Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917