Newsletter 13th July 2016
Here is a blurb I wrote on breathing which applies to both meditation and Tai Chi practice:
Breath and fetal Breathing
"He who can breathe like a fetus will respire as if still in
the womb, without using nose or mouth; thus the Tao
will be achieved."
Ge Hong Pao Pu Tzu
Life exists in those who have breath; without it, there is no life. Our breath determines our fragile existence and we cannot be sure that the next breath will be there. Therefore, enjoy the sacredness and miracle of the breath. Regain its sense of preciousness and allow this feeling to permeate your breathing practice.
Basic Breathing Practice
The breath follows a natural rhythm, and can be used as a vehicle for entering Kan and Li practice.
1. Begin by making the breath rhythmical and quiet.
2. Observe the initial release of tension this practice creates.
3. Next, notice the breath tickling the underside of the nose. Concentrate ninety-five percent of your mind on this point.
4. Follow the breath until the cycles are smooth. Allow sighs to release any suppressed negative emotions; these sighs are a natural healing sound.
5. Subtly allow the breath to originate from each of the five solid organs.
Settling the Breath
Most people, certainly in their everyday body and mind, have unsettled breathing. Charles Luk describes nine causes of unsettled breathing as follows: “Caused by anger which lifts and fear which lowers the breath; by joy which slows it down; by grief which disperses it; by terror which throws it out of gear; by thinking which ties it up; by toil which wastes it; by cold which collects and heat which scatters.” Settling the breath is a process of cultivation similar to in the eradication of the nine worms: the adept must learn to release himself from fear, excess joy, grief, terror, thinking, excessive work, and imbalances in internal temperature homeostasis. Only then can he begin to discover the realm of settling the breath. At some stage, when the breath quiets down so much that it disappears, the mind can focus on the sensations of light and dark that occur in the vicinity of the tip of the nose. This often includes the opening of the third eye (Yin Tang), which becomes the first still point that all phenomena and sensations radiate from and return to. Pleasant feelings gradually envelop the body as it opens into identifying the center. As the body opens, the center can move down to the heart and then to the lower tan tien.
Eventually, the practitioner allows the breath to sink to the lower tan tien, mixing pleasant sensations and chi with the breath so that the energetic worlds enter the meditation experience. At this point, the breath can be used to expand consciousness beyond the self. With every exhalation the chi is condensed into the lower tan tien, and with every inhalation the mind expands and becomes as large as the universe. In other words, with each breath cycle the universe expands to infinity and then condenses to one point.This cycle echoes many creation stories, in which the Big Bang creates the universe, which expands to infinity, followed by the big crunch that contracts it down to one infinitely small point. With each breath the whole of the being partakes in this cyclical death and rebirth. Tension is gradually removed from all parts of the body. All of the senses join in and merge until finally the breath lets go and stops. “Neither during exhalation nor inhalation should one hear with one’s ears the sound of breathing. . . . A wild goose feather may be placed in front of the nose and mouth . . . this should not show movement.” One can make gentle clicking noises with the throat instead of breathing. When coupling begins, the swallowing reflex will also start. This swallowing can sometimes take on a pigeonlike sound and quality.
From Fetal Breathing the practitioner may begin higher level practice. In the Oral Explanation of Embryonic Respiration it says: “It is reverting to the origin (Fan Pen) and regenerating the primary vitalities (Huan Yuan) that old age can be chased away, and that one can return to the state of the fetus. Truly there is a point in this. Softly, gently, without holding of the breath, that is the way to bring about germination of the Tao of immortality.”
This highlights the importance of this breathing technique.